Marine Science Faculty Publications

Mangrove Sediment Carbon Stocks along an Elevation Gradient: Influence of the Late Holocene Marine Regression (New Caledonia)

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Blue carbon, Carbon isotopes, Carbon sequestration, Coastal wetlands, Sea-level change, Semi-arid mangrove forest

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Among blue carbon ecosystems, mangroves are very efficient in storing carbon in their sediments over decadal to millennial time scales. However, this ability varies with numerous parameters, including climate and sea-level variations. In New Caledonia, mangrove ecosystems develop in semi-arid conditions with a typical zonation: Rhizophora spp. colonize the seaward side of the intertidal area, while Avicennia marina develops at higher elevations, just below the salt-flat. Within this context, we determined both the quantity (organic carbon content and carbon stocks) and the characteristics (carbon over nitrogen ratios (C/N), stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes, radiocarbon age) of the organic matter stored beneath each mangrove stands. Carbon stocks were determined down to different limits with depth: approximate extension of the root systems, one-meter depth, and the hard substrate. Within the extension of the root systems, the sediment carbon stock was lower than 100 MgC ha−1 regardless of the mangrove species. This low value resulted directly from the dry climate that limits mangrove productivity. At depth beneath every zone, a buried layer enriched in mangrove-derived organic matter, with C/N values around 40 and δ13C values around −26‰ was observed. This layer likely resulted from a sea-level high stand during the late Holocene that allowed a long period of stability of the mangrove, slowly accumulating organic matter within the sediment. In this buried layer, the carbon stock was higher than in the upper sediment and reached up to 665, 255 and 300 MgC ha−1 in the salt-flat zone, the A. marina stand and the R. spp. stand, respectively. The highest stock, determined beneath the salt-flat, was suggested to be related to a period of sea-level stability that lasted ~3000 years, whereas beneath the other zones, which are at lower elevations, mangrove colonization was more recent and the sea-level was continuously decreasing till recently. Sea-level variations, and, specifically current sea-level rise, may strongly influence mangrove development due to their migration along the tidal elevation gradient to maintain the biotic conditions needed for their development.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Marine Geology, v. 404, p. 60-70