Calcification-driven CO2 emissions exceed “Blue Carbon” sequestration in a carbonate seagrass meadow


Long-term “Blue Carbon” burial in seagrass meadows is complicated by other carbon and alkalinity exchanges that shape net carbon sequestration. We measured a suite of such processes, including denitrification, sulfur, and inorganic carbon cycling, and assessed their impact on air-water CO2 exchange in a typical seagrass meadow underlain by carbonate sediments. Eddy covariance measurements reveal a consistent source of CO2 to the atmosphere at an average rate of 610 ± 990 μmol m−2 hour−1 during our study and 700 ± 660 μmol m−2 hour−1 (6.1 mol m−2 year−1) over an annual cycle. Net alkalinity consumption by ecosystem calcification explains >95% of the observed CO2 emissions, far exceeding organic carbon burial and anaerobic alkalinity generation. We argue that the net carbon sequestration potential of seagrass meadows may be overestimated if calcification-induced CO2 emissions are not accounted for, especially in regions where calcification rates exceed net primary production and burial.
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