Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Geophysical Research Letters
Sea level rise alters coastal carbon cycling by driving the rapid migration of coastal ecosystems, salinization of freshwater systems, and replacement of terrestrial forests with tidal wetlands. Wetland soils accumulate carbon (C) at faster rates than terrestrial soils, implying that sea level rise may lead to enhanced carbon accumulation. Here, we show that carbon stored in tree biomass greatly exceeds carbon stored in adjacent marsh soils so that marsh migration reduces total carbon stocks by 50% in less than 100years. Continued marsh soil carbon accumulation may eventually offset forest carbon loss, but we estimate that the time for replacement is similar to estimates of marsh survival (i.e., centuries), which suggests that forest C may never be replaced. These findings reveal a critical C source not included in coastal C budgets driven by migrating ecosystems and rapidly shifting allocations between carbon stored in soils and biomasS.
Smith, Alexander J. and Kirwan, Matthew L., Sea Level-Driven Marsh Migration Results in Rapid Net Loss of Carbon (2021). Geophysical Research Letters, 48(e2021GL092420).
Available for download on Wednesday, December 01, 2021