Annual net ecosystem exchanges of carbon dioxide and methane from a temperate brackish marsh: should the focus of marsh restoration be on brackish environments?
Abstract:The exchange and transport of carbon in tidally driven, saline marsh ecosystems provide habitat and trophic support for coastal wildlife and fisheries, while potentially accumulating and storing carbon at some of the highest rates compared to other ecosystems. However, due to the predicted rise in sea level over the next century, the preservation and restoration of estuarine habitats is necessary to compensate for their expected decline. In addition, restoration of these marsh systems can also reduce the impacts of global climate change as they assimilate as much carbon as their freshwater counterparts, while emitting less methane due to the higher concentrations of sulfate in seawater. Unfortunately, in brackish marshes, with salinity concentrations less than 18 parts per thousand (ppt), simple relationships between methane production, salinity and sulfate concentrations are not well known.
Here we present the net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of carbon dioxide and methane, as calculated by the eddy covariance method, from a brackish marsh ecosystem in the San Francisco Estuary where salinity ranges from oligohaline (0.5-5 ppt) to mesohaline (5-18 ppt) conditions. Daily rates of carbon dioxide and methane NEE ranged from approximately 10 gC-CO2 m-2 d-1 and 0 mgC-CH4 m-2 d-1, during the winter to -15 gC-CO2 m-2 d-1 and 30 mgC-CH4 m-2 d-1, in the summer growing season. A comparison between similar measurements made from freshwater wetlands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta found that the daily rates of carbon dioxide NEE were similar, but daily rates of methane NEE were just a small fraction (0-15%). Our research also shows that the daily fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane at the brackish marsh were highly variable and may be influenced by the tidal exchanges of seawater. Furthermore, the observed decline in methane production from summer to fall may have resulted from a rise in salinity and/or a seasonal decline in water and air temperatures. Our research goals are to provide insight into rates of plant productivity and uncertainty of methane production for brackish marsh systems that can help to inform policymakers of potential data gaps preventing inclusion of coastal wetland carbon sequestration in national inventories and greenhouse gas - offset markets.