Salt marshes have been identified as Blue Carbon ecosystemsfor their ability to rapidly bury organic carbon through sedimentation. However, in order for sediment accretion to offset ongoing anthropogenic CO2 emissions, carbon undergoing burialmust be derived from contemporary primary production. Geochemical analyses of sediments accreting in two intertidal salt marshes in San Francisco Bay indicate that the majority of organic matter was photosynthesized many centuries ago, and was likely imported into the marsh after having aged elsewhere, such as within terrestrial soils. Marsh plants introduce organic carbon into the sediments, but this locally-produced organic matter is lost from the sediment profile at a faster rate compared to imported organic matter. The rapidturnover of indigenous organic matter (‘fast carbon’) relative to the apparent stability of imported organic matter (‘slow carbon’) suggest that carbon burial in these systems is largely decoupled from ongoing anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
Speaker: Tomoko Komada, San Francisco State University
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