Substantial stores of sedimentary carbon held in mid-latitude fjords

Smeaton, Craig; Austin, William E. N.; Davies, Althea L.; Baltzer, Agnès; Abell, Richard E.; Howe, John A.

Quantifying marine sedimentary carbon stocks is key to improving our understanding of long-term storage of carbon in the coastal ocean and to further constraining the global carbon cycle. Here we present a methodological approach which combines seismic geophysics and geochemical measurements to quantitatively estimate the total stock of carbon held within marine sediment. Through the application of this methodology to Loch Sunart, a fjord on the west coast of Scotland, we have generated the first full sedimentary carbon inventory for a fjordic system. The sediments of Loch Sunart hold 26.9 ± 0.5 Mt of carbon split between 11.5 ± 0.2 and 15.0 ± 0.4 Mt of organic and inorganic carbon respectively. These new quantitative estimates of carbon stored in coastal sediments are significantly higher than previous estimates. Through an area-normalised comparison to adjacent Scottish peatland carbon stocks, we have determined that these mid-latitude fjords are significantly more effective as carbon stores than their terrestrial counterparts. This initial work supports the concept that fjords are important environments for the burial and long-term storage of carbon and therefore should be considered and treated as unique environments within the global carbon cycle.

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Smeaton, Craig / Austin, William E. N. / Davies, Althea L. / et al: Substantial stores of sedimentary carbon held in mid-latitude fjords. 2016. Copernicus Publications.

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