Total ecosystem carbon stocks of mangroves across broad global environmental and physical gradients

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Mangroves sequester large quantities of carbon (C) that become significant sources of greenhouse gases when disturbed through land-use change. Thus, they are of great value to incorporate into climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. In response, a global network of mangrove plots was established to provide policy-relevant ecological data relating to interactions of mangrove C stocks with climatic, tidal, plant community, and geomorphic factors. Mangroves from 190 sites were sampled across five continents encompassing large biological, physical, and climatic gradients using consistent methodologies for the quantification of total ecosystem C stocks (TECS). Carbon stock data were collected along with vegetation, physical, and climatic data to explore potential predictive relationships. There was a 28-fold range in TECS (79-2,208 Mg C/ha) with a mean of 856 ± 32 Mg C/ha. Belowground C comprised an average 85% of the TECS. Mean soil depth was 216 cm, ranging from 22 to >300 cm, with 68 sites (35%) exceeding a depth of 300 cm. TECS were weakly correlated with metrics of forest structure, suggesting that aboveground forest structure alone cannot accurately predict TECS. Similarly, precipitation was not a strong predictor of TECS. Reasonable estimates of TECS were derived via multiple regression analysis using precipitation, soil depth, tree mass, and latitude (R2 = 0.54) as variables. Soil carbon to a 1 m depth averaged 44% of the TECS. Limiting analyses of soil C stocks to the top 1 m of soils result in large underestimates of TECS as well as in the greenhouse gas emissions that would arise from their conversion to other land uses. The current IPCC Tier 1 default TECS value for mangroves is 511 Mg C/ha, which is only 60% of our calculated global mean. This study improves current assessments of mangrove C stocks providing a foundation necessary for C valuation related to climate change mitigation. We estimate mangroves globally store about 11.7 Pg C: an aboveground carbon stock of 1.6 Pg C and a belowground carbon stock of 10.2 Pg C). The differences in the estimates of total ecosystem carbon stocks based on climate, salinity, forest structure, geomorphology, or geopolitical boundaries are not as much of an influence as the choice of soil depth included in the estimate. Choosing to limit soils to a 1 m depth resulted in estimates of 1 m depth resulted in global carbon stock estimates that exceeded 11.2 Pg C.

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