Reviews and syntheses: spatial and temporal patterns in metabolic fluxes inform potential for seagrass to locally mitigate ocean acidification

As global change continues to progress, there is a growing interest in assessing any local levers that could be used to manage the social and ecological impacts of rising CO2 concentrations. While habitat conservation and restoration have been widely recognized for their role in carbon storage and sequestration at a global scale, the potential for managers to use vegetated habitats to mitigate CO2 concentrations at local scales in marine ecosystems facing the accelerating threat of ocean acidification (OA) has only recently garnered attention. Early studies have shown that submerged aquatic vegetation, such as seagrass beds, can locally draw down CO2 and raise seawater pH in the water column through photosynthesis, but empirical studies of local OA mitigation are still quite limited. Here, we leverage the extensive body of literature on seagrass community metabolism to highlight key considerations for local OA management through seagrass conservation or restoration. In particular, we synthesize the results from 62 studies reporting in situ rates of seagrass gross primary productivity, respiration, and/or net community productivity to highlight spatial and temporal variability in carbon fluxes. We illustrate that daytime net community production is positive overall, and similar across seasons and geographies. Full-day net community production rates, which illustrate the potential cumulative effect of seagrass beds on seawater biogeochemistry integrated over day and night, were also positive overall, but were higher in summer months in both tropical and temperate ecosystems. Although our analyses suggest seagrass meadows are generally autotrophic, the modeled effects on seawater pH are relatively small in magnitude. In addition, we illustrate that periods when full-day net community production is highest could be associated with lower nighttime pH and increased diurnal variability in seawater pCO2/pH. Finally, we highlight important areas for future research to inform the next steps for assessing the utility of this approach for management.

Kroeker K., Kindinger T., Hirsh H., Ward M., Hill T., Jellison B., Koweek D., Lummis S., Rivest E., Waldbusser G., & Gaylord B., in review. Reviews and syntheses: spatial and temporal patterns in metabolic fluxes inform potential for seagrass to locally mitigate ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discuss. Article.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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