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Carbon accumulation in freshwater marsh soils: A synthesis for temperate North America
  • Amanda Loder,
  • Sarah Finkelstein
Amanda Loder
University of Toronto

Corresponding Author:amanda.loder@mail.utoronto.ca

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Sarah Finkelstein
University of Toronto
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Peatland soils are of great interest for study and management because of their high carbon contents and known role in the global carbon cycle. However, carbon stocks have yet to be constrained in many wetland ecosystems. Relative to bogs, fens and saline coastal ecosystems, less is known about carbon stocks in freshwater marsh soils despite their global prevalence, and it is not well understood how disturbance of freshwater marshes may affect carbon-climate dynamics. To better understand the potential for freshwater marshes to be net carbon sinks, we review how freshwater marshes and associated soils are classified, and synthesize available data on short- and long-term rates of carbon accumulation in freshwater marsh soils in temperate North America. Although often described as mineral-based, our findings suggest that freshwater marshes are not restricted to mineral substrates, and that inconsistencies in classification may underestimate presumed carbon stocks. Organic carbon contents and bulk density measurements are highly variable, and can range between 1-45% and 0.04-1.5 g cm-3, respectively. Moreover, rates of carbon accumulation in freshwater marshes are often measured over recent time scales (50-100 years; on average 155 +/- 74 g C m-2 yr-1), while long-term rates (measured over centuries and millennia; on average 51 +/- 38 g C m-2 yr-1) are much more scarce. We suspect that short-term rates are markedly greater than long-term rates of carbon accumulation because they do not account for long-term carbon loss and may reflect large increases in sedimentation since European settlement in North America. However, we also suspect that long-term carbon storage in freshwater marsh soils is underestimated, and that freshwater marshes can have long-term rates of carbon accumulation similar to those reported for temperate peatlands. In this presentation, we will show that variability of rates of carbon accumulation, rates of sediment accretion, bulk density and organic carbon content in freshwater marshes needs to be better constrained in order to accurately quantify their regional and global carbon pools. We will discuss the importance for scientists to specify timeframes over which they are measuring rates of carbon accumulation so that the capacity for wetlands to be net carbon sinks can be correctly understood.
Oct 2020Published in Wetlands volume 40 issue 5 on pages 1173-1187. 10.1007/s13157-019-01264-6