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Variation of carbon contents in eelgrass (Zostera marina) sediments implied from depth profiles

Journal article
Authors T. Kindeberg
E. Röhr
Per-Olav Moksnes
C. Boström
M. Holmer
Published in Biology Letters
Volume 15
Issue 6
ISSN 1744-9561
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of marine sciences
Language en
Keywords Biogeochemistry, Carbon content, Eelgrass, Sediment carbon profiles, Zostera marina
Subject categories Marine ecology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Seagrass meadows are able to store significant amounts of organic carbon in their underlying sediment, but global estimates are uncertain partly owing to spatio-temporal heterogeneity between and within areas and species. In order to provide robust estimates, there is a need to better understand the fate of, and mechanisms behind, organic carbon storage. In this observational study, we analyse a suite of biotic and abiotic parameters in sediment cores from 47 different eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds spanning the distributional range of the Northern Hemisphere. Depth profiles of particulate organic carbon (POC) revealed three patterns of vertical distribution where POC either increased, decreased or showed no pattern with sediment depth. These categories exhibited distinct profiles of δ13C and C:N ratios, where high POC profiles had a proportionally larger storage of eelgrass-derived material whereas low POC profiles were dominated by phytoplanktonic and macroalgal material. However, high POC did not always translate into high carbon density. Nevertheless, this large-scale dataset provides evidence that the variability in organic matter source in response to natural and anthropogenic environmental changes affects the potential role of eelgrass beds as POC sinks, particularly where eelgrass decline is observed. © 2019 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

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