Geographic variation in blue carbon storage in Florida seagrass beds

Authors: Jennifer McHenry*, Florida State University, Department of Geography, Andrew Rassweiler, Florida State University, Department of Biological Sciences, Gema Hernan, Florida State University, Department of Biological Sciences, Alexandra Dubel, Florida State University, Department of Biological Sciences, Nicholas Varias, Florida State University, Department of Geography, Jakob Barzak, Florida State University , Department of Human Sciences, Carolyn Curtin, Florida State University, Department of Geography, Jasmine Rubio, Department of Biological Sciences, Sarah E Lester, Florida State University, Department of Geography
Topics: Marine and Coastal Resources, Biogeography, Global Change
Keywords: seagrass beds, blue carbon, climate change
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: Download



Seagrasses sequester and store carbon in coastal marine sediments (termed blue carbon), preventing vast amounts of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. As such, seagrass restoration has gained traction as a viable carbon dioxide removal strategy that could be harnessed to slow the pace of climate change. However, natural variation in carbon storage by seagrass beds is still poorly resolved in many systems. Additionally, the relative influence of ecological, physical, and oceanographic factors on blue carbon storage potential is still disputed, creating uncertainty about the outcomes of proposed restoration projects and how these benefits might vary over geographic scales. We quantified blue carbon stocks associated with seagrasses along the Florida Gulf Coast (FGC), using field surveys and sediment cores collected and analyzed in the laboratory for plant biomass, organic carbon, carbonates, and sediment composition. Combining these datasets with seagrass distribution models, sedimentation maps, and ocean data products, we modeled how carbon storage potential varies as a function of seagrass community structure (i.e., seagrass cover and seagrass species composition), physical properties (e.g., depth and sediment grain-size), and oceanographic factors (e.g., sea surface temperature and nutrient concentrations) along the FGC. Preliminary results indicate seagrasses significantly enhance blue carbon stocks throughout this region. Furthermore, we find variability in blue carbon benefits that are related to oceanographic factors controlling nutrient levels and sediment deposition rates, and are not influenced by seagrass community structure. These results have important implications for understanding biogeographic patterns of seagrass ecosystem services and for seagrass management and restoration.

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