Seagrass meadows are strong coastal carbon sinks of autochthonous and allochthonous carbon. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of coastal anthropogenic pressure on the variability of carbon sources in seagrass carbon sinks during the last 150 yr. We did so by examining the composition of the sediment organic carbon (Corg) stocks by measuring the δ13Corg signature and C : N ratio in 210Pb dated sediments of 11 Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows around the Balearic Islands (Spain, Western Mediterranean) under different levels of human pressure. On average, the top meter sediment carbon deposits were mainly (59% ± 12%) composed by P. oceanica derived carbon whereas seston contribution was generally lower (41% ± 8%). The contribution of P. oceanica to the total sediment carbon stock was the highest (∼ 80%) in the most pristine sites whereas the sestonic contribution was the highest (∼ 40–80%) in the meadows located in areas under moderate to very high human pressure. Furthermore, an increase in the contribution of sestonic carbon and a decrease in that of seagrass derived carbon toward present was observed in most of the meadows examined, coincident with the onset of the tourism industry development and coastal urbanization in the region. Our results demonstrate a general increase of total carbon accumulation rate in P. oceanica sediments during the last century, mainly driven by the increase in sestonic Corg carbon burial, which may have important implications in the long-term carbon sink capacity of the seagrass meadows in the region examined.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank the support of the Generalitat de Catalunya to MERS (2014 SGR – 1356). We thank Regino Martínez and Fernando Lázaro for field work support and Laura Oliver for laboratory assistance. We thank the ferry company Baleària for supporting travel between islands. This study was funded by the EU FP7 project Operas (contract number 308393) and the project EstresX funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (contract number CTM2012-32603). I.M. was supported by a Ph.D. scholarship of the Government of the Balearic Islands. AAO was supported by a Ph.D. grant of Obra Social “la Caixa.” This work is contributing to the ICTA 'Unit of Excellence' (MinECo, MDM2015-0552).