The role of marsh-dominated heterotrophic continental margins in transport of CO2 between the atmosphere, the land-sea interface and the ocean



[1] Recent air-to-sea CO2 flux measurements at several major continental shelves suggest that shelves may act as a one-way pump and absorb atmospheric CO2 into the ocean. The U.S. South Atlantic Bight (SAB) contrasts these findings in that it acts as a source of CO2 to the atmosphere while simultaneously exporting dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) to the open ocean. The shelf-wide heterotrophy and carbon exports in the SAB are subsidized by the export of organic carbon from the abundant intertidal marshes, which are a sink for atmospheric CO2. It is proposed here that the SAB represents a marsh-dominated heterotrophic ocean margin as opposed to river-dominated autotrophic margins. Based on this and other studies, DIC export flux from margins to the open ocean must be significant in the overall global ocean carbon budget.