A synthesis of modern organic carbon accumulation rates in coastal and aquatic inland ecosystems

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Oct 24, 2018
Grace M. Wilkinson, Alice Besterman, Cal Buelo, Jessica Gephart, & Michael L. Pace



Organic carbon accumulation in the sediments of inland aquatic and coastal ecosystems is an important process in the global carbon budget that is subject to intense human modifcation. To date, research has focused on quantifying accumulation rates in individual or groups of aquatic ecosystems to quantify the aquatic carbon sinks. However, there hasn’t been a synthesis of rates across aquatic ecosystem to address the variability in rates within and among ecosystems types. Doing so would identify gaps in our understanding of accumulation rates and potentially reveal carbon sinks vulnerable to change. We synthesized accumulation rates from the literature, compiling 464 rate measurements from 103 studies of carbon accumulated in the modern period (ca. 200 years). Accumulation rates from the literature spanned four orders of magnitude varying substantially within and among ecosystem categories, with mean estimates for ecosystem categories ranging from 15.6 to 73.2gC m−2 y−1 within ecosystem categories. With the exception of lakes, mean accumulation rates were poorly constrained due to high variability and paucity of data. Despite the high uncertainty, the estimates of modern accumulation rate compiled here are an important step for constructing carbon budgets and predicting future change.

Read the article in Scientific Reports.

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