No detectable impact of small-scale disturbances on ‘blue carbon’ within seagrass beds

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Marine Biology, 2014, 161 (12), pp. 2939 - 2944
Issue Date:
2014-01-01
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© 2014, Crown copyright as represented by: University of Technology, Sydney. Seagrass meadows are among the most efficient and long-term carbon sinks on earth, but disturbances could threaten this capacity, so understanding the impacts of disturbance on carbon stored within seagrass meadows—‘blue carbon’—is of prime importance. To date, there have been no published studies on the impacts of seagrass loss on ‘blue carbon’ stocks. We experimentally created several kinds of small-scale disturbances, representative of common grazer and boating impacts, within seagrass (Zostera nigracaulis) meadows in Port Phillip Bay (Australia) and measured the impacts on sediment organic carbon stocks (‘C org ’, and other geochemical variables—%N, δ 13 C, δ 15 N). Disturbance had no detectable effect on C org levels within seagrass sediments, even for high-intensity disturbance treatments, which remained bare (i.e. no seagrass recovery) for 2 years after the disturbance. These findings challenge the widely held assumption that disturbance and concomitant loss of seagrass habitat cause release of carbon, at least for small-scale disturbances. We suggest that larger (e.g. meadow scale) disturbances may be required to trigger losses of ‘blue carbon’ from seagrass meadows.
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