Impacts of wetland dieback on carbon dynamics: A comparison between intact and degraded mangroves

Mangroves are effective blue carbon sinks and are the most carbon rich ecosystems on earth. However, their areal extent has declined by over one-third in recent decades. Degraded mangrove forests result in reduced carbon captured and lead to release of stored carbon into the atmosphere by CO2emission. The aim of this study was to assess changes in carbon dynamics in a gradually degrading mangrove forest on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. Remote sensing techniques were applied to estimate the distribution of intact and degraded mangroves. Forest structure, sediment carbon storage, sediment CO2 effluxes and dissolved organic and inorganic carbon in pore and surface waters across intact and degraded parts were assessed. On average intact mangroves showed 31% sediment organic carbon in the upper 30 cm compared to 20% in degraded mangrove areas. A loss of 1.51 MgCO2 ha−1 yr−1for degraded sites was calculated. Water samples showed a hypersaline environment in the degraded mangrove area averaging 93 which may have caused mangrove dieback. Sediment CO2 efflux within degraded sites was lower than values from other studies where degradation was caused by clearing or cutting, giving new insights into carbon dynamics in slowly degrading mangrove systems. Results of water samples agreed with previous studies where inorganic carbon outwelled from mangroves might enhance ecosystem connectivity by potentially buffering ocean acidification locally. Wetlands will be impacted by a variety of stressors resulting from a changing climate. Results from this study could inform scientists and stakeholders on how combined stresses, such as climate change with salinity intrusion may impact mangrove's blue carbon sink potential and highlight the need of future comparative studies of intact versus degraded mangrove stands.

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