Minerogenic salt marshes can function as important inorganic carbon stores

Document Type



Final Published Version

Publication Title

Limnology and Oceanography

Publication Date



Stocks and fluxes of soil inorganic carbon have long been ignored in the context of coastal carbon sequestration, and their implications for the climate cooling effect of blue carbon ecosystems are complex. Here, we investigate the role of soil inorganic carbon in five salt marshes along the northern coast of the European Wadden Sea, one of the world's largest intertidal areas, harboring ~ 20% of European salt-marsh area. We demonstrate a substantial contribution of inorganic carbon (average: 29%; range: 7–57%) to the total soil carbon stock of the top 1 m. Notably, inorganic exceeded organic carbon stocks in one of the studied sites; a finding that we ascribe to site geomorphic features, such as proximity to marine calcium carbonate sources and hydrodynamic exposure. Contrary to our hypothesis that inorganic carbon stocks would decline along the successional gradient from tidal flat to high marsh, as carbonate deposits would progressively dissolve in increasingly organic-rich rooted sediments, our findings demonstrate the opposite pattern—an increase in inorganic carbon stocks along the successional gradient. This suggests that the dissolution of calcium carbonates in the root zone is counterbalanced by other processes, such as trapping of sedimentary carbonates by marsh vegetation and calcium carbonate precipitation in anaerobic subsoils. In the context of blue carbon, it will be critical to develop an improved understanding of these plant- and microbiota-mediated processes in calcium carbonate cycling.