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Effects of shading and simulated grazing on carbon sequestration in a tropical seagrass meadow
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences. University of Dodoma, Tanzania.
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2016 (English)In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 104, no 3, p. 654-664Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

1. There is an ongoing world-wide decline of seagrass ecosystems, one of the world's most efficient carbon sink habitats. In spite of this, there is a clear lack of studies experimentally testing the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on carbon sequestration of seagrass systems. 2. We assessed the effects of two disturbances of global concern on the carbon sink function in a five-month in situ experiment within a tropical seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) meadow by testing the impacts of shading and simulated grazing at two levels of intensity using shading cloths and clipping of shoot tissue. We measured the effects of these disturbances on the carbon sequestration process by assessing the net community production (NCP), carbon and nitrogen content in tissue biomass, and organic matter and THAA (total hydrolysable amino acids) in the sediment down to 40 cm depth. 3. Treatments of high-intensity shading and high-intensity clipping were similarly impacted and showed a significantly lower NCP and carbon content in the below-ground biomass compared to the seagrass control. No significant effects were seen in organic carbon, total nitrogen, C:N ratio and THAA in the sediment for the seagrass treatments. However, both clipping treatments showed different depth profiles of carbon and THAA compared to the seagrass control, with lower organic carbon and THAA content in the surface sediment. This can be explained by the clipping of shoot tissue causing a less efficient trapping of allochthonous carbon and reduced input of shredded seagrass leaves to the detritus sediment layer. In the clipping plots, erosion of the surface sediment occurred, which was also most likely caused by the removal of above-ground plant biomass. 4. Synthesis. Our findings show that during the course of this experiment, there were no impacts on the sedimentary carbon while the high-intensity disturbances caused a clear depletion of carbon biomass and reduced the seagrass meadow's capacity to sequester carbon. From a long-term perspective, the observed effect on the carbon biomass pool in the high-intensity treatments and the sediment erosion in the clipping plots may lead to loss in sedimentary carbon.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 104, no 3, p. 654-664
Keyword [en]
aquatic plant ecology, blue carbon sequestration, changing climate, disturbances, ecosystem production, in situ experiment, marine vegetation, natural carbon sinks
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Plant Physiology; Marine Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-128154DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12564ISI: 000379014900005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-128154DiVA, id: diva2:913469
Available from: 2016-03-21 Created: 2016-03-21 Last updated: 2018-04-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Carbon sequestration processes in tropical seagrass beds
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Carbon sequestration processes in tropical seagrass beds
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Seagrass meadows may play a substantial role in climate change mitigation as they are capable to sequester and store substantial amounts of anthropogenic carbon in plant biomass and, more importantly, in their underlying sediments. In this PhD thesis, the carbon-burial potential was assessed by quantifying the amount of organic carbon stored in different seagrass meadows, each dominated by one of the four major seagrass species in the Western Indian Ocean region. Impacts of anthropogenic disturbances on biomass carbon allocation, greenhouse gas emission (methane and nitrous oxide) and production of sulphide were investigated in Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar. The findings showed that east African seagrass meadows generally have high carbon sink capacity. The storage of sedimentary organic carbon, however, varied among seagrass habitats and across sites, and was up to five-fold higher in seagrass sediment to those of nearby unvegetated sediments. Seagrass meadows in eutrophicated sites had higher sedimentary organic carbon content, and substantially higher emission rates of nitrous oxides and methane, compared to more pristine meadows. Disturbances in terms of shading and simulated grazing of seagrass affected several processes, with major decreases in seagrass primary productivity, net community production and biomass carbon, in turn influencing seagrass carbon sequestration as well as stimulating anaerobic microbial processes. In addition, production of sulphide in the sediment and methane emissions from the sediment surface increased significantly when disturbed. At present, seagrass meadows in the Western Indian Ocean have high carbon sink capacity. This important ecosystem service is, however, highly threatened due to regional anthropogenic pressure, which may change the role of blue carbon rich habitats, such as seagrass meadows, from being a sink to a source of greenhouse gases.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, 2016. p. 49
Keyword
Seagrass, Carbon sequestration, Carbon sink, Eutrophication, Productivity, Nitrous oxide, Methane, Greenhouse gases, Tropical, Eastern Africa
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Plant Physiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-128201 (URN)978-91-7649-369-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-05-04, Vivi Täckholm-salen, NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-03-21 Last updated: 2017-02-20Bibliographically approved
2. Natural and human-induced carbon storage variability in seagrass meadows
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Natural and human-induced carbon storage variability in seagrass meadows
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Seagrasses are considered highly important CO2 sinks, with the capacity to store substantial quantities of organic carbon in the living biomass and sediments, and thereby acting as a buffer against climate change. In this thesis, I have studied carbon storage variability in temperate and tropical seagrass habitats and identified factors influencing this variation. In addition, as seagrass areas are decreasing worldwide, I have assessed effects of different anthropogenic disturbances on carbon sequestration processes. The result from this thesis showed that there was a large variation in carbon storage within and among temperate, tropical and subtropical regions. The highest organic carbon stocks were found in temperate Zostera marina meadows, which also showed a larger carbon storage variability than the subtropical and tropical seagrass habitats. The tropical and subtropical seagrass meadows had inorganic carbon pools exceeding the organic carbon accumulation, which could potentially weakens the carbon sink function. The variability in organic carbon stocks was generally strongly related to the sediment characteristics of the seagrass habitats. In Z. marina meadows, the strength of the carbon sink function was mainly driven by the settings of the local environment, which in turn indicates that depositional areas will likely have higher organic carbon stocks than more exposed meadows, while in the tropics seagrass biomass was also influencing sedimentary carbon levels. Furthermore, locations with large areas of seagrass were associated with higher carbon storage in tropical and subtropical regions, which could be related to increased accumulation of both autochthonous and allochthonous carbon. In an in situ experiment, impacts on carbon sequestration processes from two types of disturbances (with two levels of intensity) were tested by simulating reduced water quality (by shading) and high grazing pressure (through removal of shoot biomass). At high disturbance intensity, reductions in the net community production and seagrass biomass carbon were observed, which negatively affected carbon sequestration and could impact the sedimentary organic carbon stocks over time. In the treatments with simulated grazing, erosion was also seen, likely due to an increase in near-bed hydrodynamics. When experimentally testing effects of increased current flow on organic carbon suspension in Z. marina sediment, a ten-fold release of organic carbon with higher current flow velocities was measured, which resulted in an increase in the proportion of suspended organic carbon by three times in relation to other sediment particles. Therefore, periods with enhanced hydrodynamic activity could result in a removal of organic carbon and thereby likely reduce the seagrass meadows’ capacity to store carbon. The findings of this thesis add to the emerging picture that there is a large natural variability in seagrasses’ capacity to store carbon, and highlight how human-induced disturbances could negatively affect the carbon sink function in seagrass meadows.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, 2017
Keyword
Blue carbon sequestration, Carbon storage variability, Seagrass meadows, Anthropogenic disturbances, Climate change
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Marine Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148400 (URN)978-91-7797-012-5 (ISBN)978-91-7797-013-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-12-15, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-11-22 Created: 2017-10-24 Last updated: 2017-11-15Bibliographically approved
3. Seagrass productivity: from plant to system
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Seagrass productivity: from plant to system
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Seagrasses form one of the most productive habitats on earth and are recognized as very efficient carbon sinks. The levels and patterns of productivity within and across different seagrass systems vary widely due to natural or human-induced factors. Seagrass plants, being the foundation species of seagrass meadows, have a substitutional role as primary producers to the overall productivity of their habitat. Clarifying the variation in the carbon capture potential of these plants on physiological and ecological levels is essential to understand of the whole system’s carbon balance. In this thesis, the photosynthetic performance and productivity of seagrass plants were studied in relation to factors that have large impact on productivity, such as tissues age, season and water depth. Furthermore, the seagrass response, in terms of capacity to capture and sequester carbon, to human-induced stress factors such as shading and simulated grazing was evaluated in a tropical seagrass meadow. The research has included a multitude of seagrass productivity assessments from plant- to system level.

The results showed that age has a significant effect on the photosynthetic performance of the temperate seagrass Zostera marina L., both within a single shoot and between shoots. When comparing leaves among the same shoot, the photosynthetic capacity and efficiency were highest in mature tissues and significantly reduced in very young tissues as well as in tissues undergoing senescence. In response to high light stress, very young tissues seemed to cope better with dissipating excess light energy, which was demonstrated by the higher values of non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) observed compared to mature and senescent tissues. Such an effect was also observed when comparing the oldest and youngest shoots from the same genet; the youngest shoot showed higher ability to dissipate excess light energy compared to the oldest one, and might thus be able to better withstand light stress.

On a larger spatiotemporal scale, the areal productivity of seagrass plants was significantly affected by light availability and temperature, leading to a strong seasonal variation. In addition, depth had a strong site-specific effect on plant productivity in terms of biomass. On a yearly basis, productivity rates varied substantially, reaching up to 20 g C m-2 24h-1 in the summer months. This high carbon capture potential was, however, outbalanced by the high respiration rates of the benthic community. Overall, the whole system had a low but positive yearly carbon balance.

Both shading and simulated grazing negatively affected seagrass plants and the whole habitat after five months of experimental disturbance. On the plant level, photosynthesis, productivity and growth were all reduced. On the system level, a reduction in community productivity was recorded. The long-term refractory carbon was, however, not affected although erosion was observed in treatments subjected to simulated grazing.

In summary, this thesis has established that age, season, depth and exposure are factors highly responsible for natural variation in seagrass plant- and habitat productivity, and that seagrasses respond to human-induced stress by significantly reducing their productivity. Even though seagrass plants are generally capable of surviving stress periods, these results suggest that prolonged deteriorating stress conditions will lead to serious harm on the plants as well as the entire habitat, and thereby compromising the carbon burial capacity of the seagrass system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, 2018. p. 51
Keyword
Seagrass, Chlorophyll a fluorescence, Ageing, Productivity, Seasonality, Stress response
National Category
Botany Ecology
Research subject
Plant Physiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-155497 (URN)978-91-7797-116-0 (ISBN)978-91-7797-117-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-06-08, Vivi Täckholmssalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 2: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-05-16 Created: 2018-04-23 Last updated: 2018-05-09Bibliographically approved

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