Review of the physical and chemical properties of seagrass soils

Piñeiro Juncal, Nerea; Serrano, Oscar; Mateo, Miguel Ángel; Díaz-Almela, Elena; Leiva-Dueñas, Carmen; Martínez Cortizas, A.  Geoderma : doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2022.116219 (2022)  DIGITAL CSIC 

Seagrasses are a polyphyletic group of angiosperms that colonized marine environments more than 30 million years ago and currently inhabit coastal soft and rocky substrates in all continents except Antarctica. Due to their evolution from terrestrial plants, seagrasses have belowground organs that interact with the substrate, trans- forming it through chemo-physical processes analogous to terrestrial soil formation. Although seagrass substrates provide valuable ecosystem services including carbon and coastal stabilization, they have been largely regarded as sediments by marine scientists and neglected in soil science research. However, over the last decades, the increasing interest in carbon accumulation by seagrasses has generated multiple data on seagrass soil physical and chemical characteristics. Here, we review clay and silt content (<0.063 mm particle size), redox potential, pH, carbonate content, organic carbon or organic matter contents, dry bulk density, porosity and color of sea- grass soils worldwide, summarizing data typically used for soil description, and looking for generalities in soil characteristics across seagrass habitats. The data gathered was biased towards temperate species and high- income countries, while data about color, porosity, redox potential and pH was scarce. Soil characteristics did not show significant differences among seagrass bioregions. Most seagrass substrates showed sandy textures, whereas one of the most sampled genera, Posidonia, was not present in muddy substrates. The soil Corg content was significantly higher in meadows formed by persistent species (mean ± SD; 1.76 ± 2.17 %) than in meadows formed by species with opportunistic and colonizing life-strategies (1.52 ± 2.24 and 0.76 ± 0.95 %, respec- tively), while mud content was significantly higher in meadows formed by opportunistic and colonizing species (27.87 ± 29.58 and 21.23 ± 21.77 %, respectively) than in those formed by persistent species (11.83 ± 14.45 %). Redox potential was significantly lower in intertidal than in subtidal meadows, although caution is needed when interpreting these differences due to methodological limitations. This review provides an overview of current knowledge on seagrass soil characteristics, while identifying knowledge gaps in seagrass soil science, including geographical, species diversity and soil physico-chemical traits that limit our capacity to characterize and classify seagrass soils worldwide.