Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 15, issue 10
Biogeosciences, 15, 3189-3202, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 15, 3189-3202, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 30 May 2018

Research article | 30 May 2018

Global-change effects on early-stage decomposition processes in tidal wetlands – implications from a global survey using standardized litter

Peter Mueller1, Lisa M. Schile-Beers2, Thomas J. Mozdzer3, Gail L. Chmura4, Thomas Dinter5, Yakov Kuzyakov5,6, Alma V. de Groot7, Peter Esselink8,9, Christian Smit9, Andrea D'Alpaos10, Carles Ibáñez11, Magdalena Lazarus12, Urs Neumeier13, Beverly J. Johnson14, Andrew H. Baldwin15, Stephanie A. Yarwood15, Diana I. Montemayor16, Zaichao Yang17, Jihua Wu17, Kai Jensen1, and Stefanie Nolte1 Peter Mueller et al.
  • 1Applied Plant Ecology, Biocenter Klein Flottbek, Universität Hamburg, Ohnhorststraße 18, 22609 Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, 647 Contees Wharf Rd, Edgewater, MD 21037, USA
  • 3Department of Biology, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, USA
  • 4Department of Geography, McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke St W, QC H3A 0B9, Canada
  • 5Department of Soil Science of Temperate Ecosystems, University of Göttingen, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
  • 6Institute of Environmental Sciences, Kazan Federal University, 420049 Kazan, Russia
  • 7Wageningen Marine Research, Wageningen University and Research, Ankerpark 27, 1781 AG Den Helder, the Netherlands
  • 8PUCCIMAR, Boermarke 35, 9481 HD Vries, the Netherlands
  • 9Conservation Ecology Group, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, the Netherlands
  • 10Department of Geosciences, University of Padova, Via Gradenigo 6, Padua 35131, Italy
  • 11IRTA Aquatic Ecosystems, Carretera Poblenou Km 5.5, 43540 Sant Carles de Ràpita, Catalonia, Spain
  • 12Department of Plant Taxonomy and Nature Conservation, University of Gdańsk, ul. Wita Stwosza 59, 80-308 Gdańsk, Poland
  • 13Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 310 allée des Ursulines, Rimouski QC G5L 3A1, Canada
  • 14Department of Geology, Bates College, 214 Carnegie Sciences Building, Lewiston, ME 04240, USA
  • 15Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
  • 16Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), CONICET, UNMDP, Mar del Plata, Argentina
  • 17Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai 200438, China

Abstract. Tidal wetlands, such as tidal marshes and mangroves, are hotspots for carbon sequestration. The preservation of organic matter (OM) is a critical process by which tidal wetlands exert influence over the global carbon cycle and at the same time gain elevation to keep pace with sea-level rise (SLR). The present study assessed the effects of temperature and relative sea level on the decomposition rate and stabilization of OM in tidal wetlands worldwide, utilizing commercially available standardized litter. While effects on decomposition rate per se were minor, we show strong negative effects of temperature and relative sea level on stabilization, as based on the fraction of labile, rapidly hydrolyzable OM that becomes stabilized during deployment. Across study sites, OM stabilization was 29% lower in low, more frequently flooded vs. high, less frequently flooded zones. Stabilization declined by  ∼ 75% over the studied temperature gradient from 10.9 to 28.5°C. Additionally, data from the Plum Island long-term ecological research site in Massachusetts, USA, show a pronounced reduction in OM stabilization by  > 70% in response to simulated coastal eutrophication, confirming the potentially high sensitivity of OM stabilization to global change. We therefore provide evidence that rising temperature, accelerated SLR, and coastal eutrophication may decrease the future capacity of tidal wetlands to sequester carbon by affecting the initial transformations of recent OM inputs to soil OM.

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