Variability of UK seagrass sediment carbon: Implications for blue carbon estimates and marine conservation management

Alix Green, Michael Chadwick, Peter Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Seagrass meadows provide a multitude of ecosystem services, including a capacity to sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) within their sediments. Seagrass research in the UK is lacking and there is no published data on sediment carbon (C) within UK seagrass meadows. We sampled 13 Zostera marina meadows along the southwest coast of the UK to assess the variability in their sedimentary organic carbon (OC) stocks. The study sites were considered representative of sub-tidal Z. marina meadows in the UK, spanning a gradient of sheltered to exposed sites, varying in formation, size and density, but found along the same latitudinal gradient. OC stocks (Cstocks) integrated across 100cm depth profiles were similar among all sites (98.01 ± 2.15 to 140.24 ± 10.27 Mg C ha-1), apart from at Drakes Island, which recorded an unusually high Cstock (380.07 ± 17.51 Mg C ha-1) compared to the rest of the region. The total standing stock of C in the top 100cm of the surveyed seagrass meadows was 66,337 t C, or the equivalent of 10,512 individual UK people’s CO2 emissions per year. This figure is particularly significant relative to the seagrass area, which totalled 549.79 ha. Using estimates of seagrass cover throughout the UK and recent UK C trading values we approximate that the monetary value of the UK’s seagrass standing C stock is between £2.6 million and £5.3 million. The C stock of the UK’s seagrass meadows represent one of the largest documented C stocks within Europe and are, therefore, of important ecosystem service value. The research raises questions concerning the reliability of using global or regional data as a proxy for local seagrass C stock estimates and adds to a growing body of literature that is looking to understand the mechanisms of seagrass C storage. When taken with the fact that seagrass meadows are an important habitat for commercially important and endangered species in the UK, along with their declining health and cover, this research supports the need for more robust conservation strategies for UK seagrass habitats.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPloS one
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2018


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