The geographic concentration of blue carbon in the continental US

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Rusty A Feagin and Audra Hinson, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, United States
Salt water wetlands have the potential to be bought and sold as relatively rich reservoirs of carbon in the context of sequestration projects. However, little is known about the geographic distribution of this potential, and no coarse scale investigation has addressed this ecosystem service at the continental scale. Our objective was to determine blue carbon stocks and flux in coastal wetland soils in the United States and categorize the potential for projects by estuarine basin, state, and wetland type. We linked National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) data with the Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) through spatial analysis within a Geographic Information System (GIS). We then calculated and mapped soil organic carbon across the continental US. Results were filtered by state, estuarine basin, wetland type, and accumulation rate, and ranking lists for each categorization were produced. The results showed that belowground carbon accumulation is concentrated in specific regions, with the richest and largest reservoirs in the Gulf and Atlantic southeastern estuaries, for example mangrove zones in Florida. Salt marshes on the southern Pacific Coast were relatively low in carbon due to small areas of coverage and the presence of sandy and inorganic soil. The geomorphic position of a wetland within a given estuary, for example on an exposed barrier island versus recessed towards inflowing headwaters, accounted for a greater degree of soil carbon variation than the wetland type, for example woody mangroves versus herbaceous marshes. The potential of a blue carbon sequestration project in relation to its location could be influential in determining wetland policy, conservation, and restoration in the coming decades.