Modeling Organic Carbon Accumulation Rates and Residence Times in Coastal Vegetated Ecosystems

Belshe, Fay E.Sanjuan, JoséLeiva-Dueñas, CarmenPiñeiro Juncal, Nerea Serrano, OscarLavery, Paul S. Mateo, Miguel Ángel.  Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 124 : 3652-3671 (2019)  DIGITAL CSIC

Coastal vegetated “blue carbon” ecosystems can store large quantities of organic carbon (OC) within their soils; however, the importance of these sinks for climate change mitigation depends on the OC accumulation rate (CAR) and residence time. Here we evaluate how two modeling approaches, a Bayesian age-depth model alone or in combination with a two-pool OC model, aid in our understanding of the time lines of OC within seagrass soils. Fitting these models to data from Posidonia oceanica soil cores, we show that age-depth models provided reasonable CAR estimates but resulted in a 22% higher estimation of OC burial rates when ephemeral rhizosphere OC was not subtracted. This illustrates the need to standardize CAR estimation to match the research target and time frames under consideration. Using a two-pool model in tandem with an age-depth model also yielded reasonable, albeit lower, CAR estimates with lower estimate uncertainty, which increased our ability to detect among-site differences and seascape-level trends. Moreover, the two-pool model provided several other useful soil OC diagnostics, including OC inputs, decay rates, and transit times. At our sites, soil OC decayed quite slowly both within fast cycling (0.028 ± 0.014 yr−1) and slow cycling (0.0007 ± 0.0003 yr−1) soil pools, resulting in OC taking between 146 and 825 yr to transit the soil system. Further, an estimated 85% to 93% of OC inputs enter slow-cycling soil pools, with transit times ranging from 891 to 3,115 yr, substantiating the importance of P. oceanica soils as natural, long-term OC sinks.