Quantification of blue carbon pathways contributing to negative feedback on climate change following glacier retreat in West Antarctic fjords

Nadescha Zwerschke, Chester J. Sands, Alejandro Roman-Gonzalez, David K. A. Barnes, Alice Guzzi, Stuart Jenkins, Carlos Muñoz-Ramírez, James Scourse

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Abstract

Global warming is causing significant losses of marine ice around the polar regions. In Antarctica, the retreat of tidewater glaciers is opening up novel, low-energy habitats (fjords) that have the potential to provide a negative feedback loop to climate change. These fjords are being colonized by organisms on and within the sediment and act as a sink for particulate matter. So far, blue carbon potential in Antarctic habitats has mainly been estimated using epifaunal megazoobenthos (although some studies have also considered macrozoobenthos). We investigated two further pathways of carbon storage and potential sequestration by measuring the concentration of carbon of infaunal macrozoobenthos and total organic carbon (TOC) deposited in the sediment. We took samples along a temporal gradient since time of last glacier ice cover (1-1000 years) at three fjords along the West Antarctic Peninsula. We tested the hypothesis that seabed carbon standing stock would be mainly driven by time since last glacier covered. However, results showed this to be much more complex. Infauna were highly variable over this temporal gradient and showed similar total mass of carbon standing stock per m2 as literature estimates of Antarctic epifauna. TOC mass in the sediment, however, was an order of magnitude greater than stocks of infaunal and epifaunal carbon and increased with time since last ice cover. Thus, blue carbon stocks and recent gains around Antarctica are likely much higher than previously estimated as is their negative feedback on climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-20
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume28
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Antarctic Regions
  • Carbon
  • Climate Change
  • Ecosystem
  • Estuaries
  • Feedback
  • Ice Cover
  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NE/P003087/1

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