A marine heatwave drives massive losses from the world's largest seagrass carbon stocks

by A. Arias-Ortiz, O. Serrano, P. Masqué, P. S. Lavery, U. Mueller, G. A. Kendrick, M. Rozaimi, A. Esteban, J. W. Fourqurean, N. Marbà, M. A. Mateo, K. Murray, M. J. Rule, Carlos M. Duarte
Research article Year: 2018 ISSN: 1758-678X DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0096-y


Arias-Ortiz, A., Serrano, O., Masqué, P., Lavery, P. S., Mueller, U., Kendrick, G. A., ... & Duarte, C. M. (2018). A marine heatwave drives massive losses from the world’s largest seagrass carbon stocks. Nature Climate Change8(4), 338-344.


Seagrass ecosystems contain globally significant organic carbon (C) stocks. However, climate change and increasing frequency of extreme events threaten their preservation. Shark Bay, Western Australia, has the largest C stock reported for a seagrass ecosystem, containing up to 1.3% of the total C stored within the top metre of seagrass sediments worldwide. On the basis of field studies and satellite imagery, we estimate that 36% of Shark Bay’s seagrass meadows were damaged following a marine heatwave in 2010/2011. Assuming that 10 to 50% of the seagrass sediment C stock was exposed to oxic conditions after disturbance, between 2 and 9 Tg CO2 could have been released to the atmosphere during the following three years, increasing emissions from land-use change in Australia by 4–21% per annum. With heatwaves predicted to increase with further climate warming, conservation of seagrass ecosystems is essential to avoid adverse feedbacks on the climate system.