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Very high-resolution seismo-acoustic imaging of seagrass meadows (Mediterranean Sea): Implications for carbon sink estimates

AuthorsLo Iacono, Claudio ; Mateo, Miguel Ángel ; Gràcia, Eulàlia ; Guasch, Lluis; Carbonell, Ramón ; Serrano, Laura ; Serrano, Oscar ; Dañobeitia, Juan José
Seagrass settings
Carbon sink
Issue DateSep-2008
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
CitationGeophysical Research Letters 35: L18601(2008)
AbstractPosidonia oceanica is a widespread coastal Mediterranean seagrass which accumulates in its subsurface large quantities of organic material derived from its roots, rhizomes and leaf sheaths embedded in sandy sediments. These organic deposits may be up to several meters thick as they accumulate over thousands of years forming the matte, whose high content in organic carbon plays a major role in the global ocean carbon cycle. In this study, very high-resolution seismo-acoustic methods were applied to image the subsurface features of a P. oceanica seagrass meadow at Portlligat (Cadaqués, Girona, Spain), in the NW-Mediterranean Sea. Our findings yield fresh insights into the settling of the P. oceanica meadow in the study area, and define with unprecedented detail the potential volume occupied by the matte. A strong reflector, located from 4.3 to 11.7 m depth, was recognized in several seismo-acoustic profiles as the substratum on which P. oceanica first settled in the study area. A 3D bathymetric model of this substratum allowed us to reconstruct the Portlligat palaeo-environment prior to the settling of P. oceanica, which corresponded to a shallow coastal setting protected from the open sea. A core drilled in the meadow at Portlligat revealed the presence of a 6 m thick dense matte composed of medium to coarse sandy sediments mixed with plant debris and bioclasts. Radiocarbon datings revealed a constant accretion rate of the matte of about 1.1 m/kyr. Gravelly bioclastic deposits observed at the base of the core correspond to the base of the matte and gave a date of 5616 ± 46 Cal yr BP. For the first time, very high-resolution marine geophysical techniques allowed us to accurately define the volume occupied by P. oceanica matte, which in the study area reaches up to almost 220,000 ± 17,400 m3. This result is an important step forward in our efforts to estimate the size of the carbon sink represented by P. oceanica meadows along the Mediterranean coasts significantly contributing to the biosphere carbon cycle.
Publisher version (URL)https://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2008GL034773
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