Relevance of carbon stocks of marine sediments for national greenhouse gas inventories of maritime nations
van der Voort, Tessa S.
Eglinton, Timothy I.
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Determining national carbon stocks is essential in the framework of ongoing climate change mitigation actions. Presently, assessment of carbon stocks in the context of greenhouse gas (GHG)-reporting on a nation-by-nation basis focuses on the terrestrial realm, i.e., carbon held in living plant biomass and soils, and on potential changes in these stocks in response to anthropogenic activities. However, while the ocean and underlying sediments store substantial quantities of carbon, this pool is presently not considered in the context of national inventories. The ongoing disturbances to both terrestrial and marine ecosystems as a consequence of food production, pollution, climate change and other factors, as well as alteration of linkages and C-exchange between continental and oceanic realms, highlight the need for a better understanding of the quantity and vulnerability of carbon stocks in both systems. We present a preliminary comparison of the stocks of organic carbon held in continental margin sediments within the Exclusive Economic Zone of maritime nations with those in their soils. Our study focuses on Namibia, where there is a wealth of marine sediment data, and draws comparisons with sediment data from two other countries with different characteristics, which are Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Results indicate that marine sediment carbon stocks in maritime nations can be similar in magnitude to those of soils. Therefore, if human activities in these areas are managed, carbon stocks in the oceanic realm—particularly over continental margins—could be considered as part of national GHG inventories. This study shows that marine sediment organic carbon stocks can be equal in size or exceed terrestrial carbon stocks of maritime nations. This provides motivation both for improved assessment of sedimentary carbon inventories and for reevaluation of the way that carbon stocks are assessed and valued. The latter carries potential implications for the management of human activities on coastal environments and for their GHG inventories.
© The Author(s), 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Carbon Balance and Management 12 (2017): 10, doi:10.1186/s13021-017-0077-x.
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