Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 24
Biogeosciences, 14, 5663-5674, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-14-5663-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 14, 5663-5674, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-14-5663-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Dec 2017

Research article | 15 Dec 2017

Scotland's forgotten carbon: a national assessment of mid-latitude fjord sedimentary carbon stocks

Craig Smeaton1, William E. N. Austin1,2, Althea L. Davies1, Agnes Baltzer3, John A. Howe2, and John M. Baxter4 Craig Smeaton et al.
  • 1School of Geography & Geosciences, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, KY16 9AL, UK
  • 2Scottish Association for Marine Science, Scottish Marine Institute, Oban, PA37 1QA, UK
  • 3Institut de Géographie et d'Aménagement Régional de l'Université de Nantes, BP 81 227 44312 Nantes CEDEX 3, France
  • 4Scottish Natural Heritage, Silvan House, Edinburgh, EH12 7AT, UK

Abstract. Fjords are recognised as hotspots for the burial and long-term storage of carbon (C) and potentially provide a significant climate regulation service over multiple timescales. Understanding the magnitude of marine sedimentary C stores and the processes which govern their development is fundamental to understanding the role of the coastal ocean in the global C cycle. In this study, we use the mid-latitude fjords of Scotland as a natural laboratory to further develop methods to quantify these marine sedimentary C stores on both the individual fjord and national scale. Targeted geophysical and geochemical analysis has allowed the quantification of sedimentary C stocks for a number of mid-latitude fjords and, coupled with upscaling techniques based on fjord classification, has generated the first full national sedimentary C inventory for a fjordic system. The sediments within these mid-latitude fjords hold 640.7±46Mt of C split between 295.6±52 and 345.1±39Mt of organic and inorganic C, respectively. When compared, these marine mid-latitude sedimentary C stores are of similar magnitude to their terrestrial equivalents, with the exception of the Scottish peatlands, which hold significantly more C. However, when area-normalised comparisons are made, these mid-latitude fjords are significantly more effective as C stores than their terrestrial counterparts, including Scottish peatlands. The C held within Scotland's coastal marine sediments has been largely overlooked as a significant component of the nation's natural capital; such coastal C stores are likely to be key to understanding and constraining improved global C budgets.

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Fjord sediments are recognised as hotspots for the burial and long-term storage of carbon. In this study, we use the Scottish fjords as a natural laboratory. Using geophysical and geochemical analysis in combination with upscaling techniques, we have generated the first full national sedimentary C inventory for a fjordic system. The results indicate that the Scottish fjords on a like-for-like basis are more effective as C stores than their terrestrial counterparts, including Scottish peatlands.
Fjord sediments are recognised as hotspots for the burial and long-term storage of carbon. In...
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