Capturing of organic carbon and nitrogen in eelgrass sediments of southern Scandinavia

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The ability of seagrass meadows to filter nutrients and capture and store CO2 and nutrients in the form of organic carbon (OC) and nitrogen (N) in their sediments may help to mitigate local eutrophication as well as climate change via meadow restoration and protection. This study assesses OC and N sediment stocks (top 50 cm) and sequestration rates within Danish eelgrass meadows. At four locations, eelgrass-vegetated and nearby unvegetated plots were studied in protected and exposed areas. The average OC and N sediment 50 cm stocks were 2.6 ± 0.3 kg OC m−2 and 0.23 ± 0.01 kg N m−2, including vegetated and unvegetated plots. In general, OC and N stocks did not differ significantly between eelgrass meadows and unvegetated sediments. Lack of accumulation of excess 210Pb suggested sediment erosion or low rates of sediment accumulation at most sites. OC accumulation rates ranged from 6 to 134 g m−2 yr−1 and N from 0.7 to 14 g m−2 yr−1. Generalized additive models showed that ≥ 80% of the variation in sediment OC and N stocks was explained by sediment grain size, organic matter source, and hydrodynamic exposure. Long cores, dated with 210Pb, showed declining OC and N densities toward present time, suggesting long-term declines in eelgrass OC and N pools. Estimates of potential nation-wide OC and N accumulation in eelgrass sediments show that they could annually capture up to 0.7% ± 0.5% of CO2 emissions and 6.9% ± 5.2% of the total terrestrial N load.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Pages (from-to)631-648
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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