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Enhanced Decomposition Offsets Enhanced Productivity and Soil Carbon Accumulation in Coastal Wetlands Responding to Climate Change

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Kirwan, M. L.; Blum, L. K.
Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
Volume: 8
Page(s): 707–722
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7173
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Subject(s): coastal regions
climate change
Abstract: "Coastal wetlands are responsible for about half of all carbon burial in oceans, and their persistence as a valuable ecosystem depends largely on the ability to accumulate organic material at rates equivalent to relative sea level rise. Recent work suggests that elevated CO2 and temperature warming will increase organic matter productivity and the ability of marshes to survive sea level rise. However, we find that organic decomposition rates increase by about 12% per degree of warming. Our measured temperature sensitivity is similar to studies from terrestrial systems, twice as high as the response of salt marsh productivity to temperature warming, and roughly equivalent to the productivity response associated with elevated CO2 in C3 marsh plants. Therefore, enhanced CO2 and warmer temperatures may actually make marshes less resilient to sea level rise, and tend to promote a release of soil carbon. Simple projections indicate that elevated temperatures will increase rates of sea level rise more than any acceleration in organic matter accumulation, suggesting the possibility of a positive feedback between climate, sea level rise, and carbon emissions in coastal environments."

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