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Comparing carbon sequestration in temperate freshwater wetland communities

Authors

  • Blanca Bernal,

    1. Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
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  • William J. Mitsch

    Corresponding authorCurrent affiliation:
    1. Everglades Wetland Research Park, Kapnick Center, Florida Gulf Coast University, Naples, FL, USA
    • Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
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Correspondence: William J. Mitsch, tel. + 1 614 946 6715, fax + 1 614 292 9773, e-mail: mitsch.1@osu.edu

Abstract

High productivity and waterlogged conditions make many freshwater wetlands significant carbon sinks. Most wetland carbon studies focus on boreal peatlands, however, with less attention paid to other climates and to the effects of hydrogeomorphic settings and the importance of wetland vegetation communities on carbon sequestration. This study compares six temperate wetland communities in Ohio that belong to two distinct hydrogeomorphic types: an isolated depressional wetland site connected to the groundwater table, and a riverine flow-through wetland site that receives water from an agricultural watershed. Three cores were extracted in each community and analyzed for total carbon content to determine the soil carbon pool. Sequestration rates were determined by radiometric dating with 137Cs and 210Pb on a set of composite cores extracted in each of the six communities. Cores were also extracted in uplands adjacent to the wetlands at each site. Wetland communities had accretion rates ranging from 3.0 to 6.2 mm yr−1. The depressional wetland sites had higher (P < 0.001) organic content (146 ± 4.2 gC kg−1) and lower (P < 0.001) bulk density (0.55 ± 0.01 Mg m−3) than the riverine ones (50.1 ± 6.9 gC kg−1 and 0.74 ± 0.06 Mg m−3). The soil carbon was 98–99% organic in the isolated depressional wetland communities and 85–98% organic in the riverine ones. The depressional wetland communities sequestered 317 ± 93 gC m−2 yr−1, more (P < 0.01) than the riverine communities that sequestered 140 ± 16 gC m−2 yr−1. The highest sequestration rate was found in the Quercus palustris forested wetland community (473 gC m−2 yr−1), while the wetland community dominated by water lotus (Nelumbo lutea) was the most efficient of the riverine communities, sequestering 160 gC m−2 yr−1. These differences in sequestration suggest the importance of addressing wetland types and communities in more detail when assessing the role of wetlands as carbon sequestering systems in global carbon budgets.

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