Belshe, Elizabeth, Hoeijmakers, Dieuwke, Herran, Natalia, Mtolera, Matern and Teichberg, Mirta ORCID: (2018) Seagrass community-level controls over organic carbon storage are constrained by geophysical attributes within meadows of Zanzibar, Tanzania. Biogeosciences, 15 (14). pp. 4609-4626. DOI

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The aim of this work was to explore the feasibility of using plant functional traits to identify differences in sediment organic carbon (OC) storage within seagrass meadows. At 19 sites within three seagrass meadows in the coastal waters of Zanzibar, Tanzania, species cover was estimated along with three community traits hypothesized to influence sediment OC storage (above and belowground biomass, seagrass tissue nitrogen content, and shoot density). Sediments within four biogeographic zones (fore reef, reef flat, tidal channel, and seagrass meadow) of the landscape were characterized, and sediment cores were collected within seagrass meadows to quantify OC storage in the top 25 cm and top meter of the sediment. We identified five distinct seagrass communities that had notable differences in the plant traits, which were all residing within a thin veneer (ranging from 19 to 78 cm thick) of poorly sorted, medium to coarsely grained carbonate sands on top of carbonate rock. One community (B), dominated by Thalassodendron ciliatum, contained high amounts of above (972±74 g DW m−2) and belowground (682±392 g DW m−2) biomass composed of low-elemental-quality tissues (leaf C : N = 24.5; rhizome C : N = 97). While another community (C), dominated by small-bodied ephemeral seagrass species, had significantly higher shoot density (4178 shoots m−2). However, these traits did not translate into differences in sediment OC storage and across all communities the percentage of OC within sediments was similar and low (ranging from 0.15 % to 0.75 %), as was the estimated OC storage in the top 25 cm (14.1±2.2 Mg C ha−1) and top meter (33.9±7.7 Mg C ha−1) of sediment. These stock estimates are considerably lower than the global average (194.2±20.2 Mg C ha−1) reported for other seagrass ecosystems and are on the lower end of the range of estimates reported for the tropical Indo-Pacific bioregion (1.9 to 293 Mg C ha−1). The uniformly low OC storage across communities, despite large inputs of low-quality belowground tissues in community B, indicates that the geophysical conditions of the coarse, shallow sediments at our sites were not conducive to OC stabilization and outweighed any variation in the quantity or quality of seagrass litter inputs. These results add to a growing body of evidence showing that geophysical conditions of the sediment modulate the importance of plant traits in regards to retention of OC within blue carbon ecosystems and cautions against the use of plant traits as a proxy for sediment OC storage across all seagrass ecosystems.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Ecology > Algae and Seagrass Ecology
Biogeochemistry and Geology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
ISSN: 1726-4189
Date Deposited: 29 May 2019 11:20
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 13:28

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