Temperature sensitivity of organic-matter decay in tidal marshes

M. L. Kirwan, G. R. Guntenspergen, J. A. Langley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Approximately half of marine carbon sequestration takes place in coastal wetlands, including tidal marshes, where organic matter contributes to soil elevation and ecosystem persistence in the face of sea-level rise. The long-term viability of marshes and their carbon pools depends, in part, on how the balance between productivity and decay responds to climate change. Here, we report the sensitivity of labile soil organic-matter decay in tidal marshes to seasonal and latitudinal variations in temperature measured over a 3-year period. We find a moderate increase in decay rate at warmer temperatures (3-6% per °C, Q10Combining double low line 1.3-1.5). Despite the profound differences between microbial metabolism in wetlands and uplands, our results indicate a strong conservation of temperature sensitivity. Moreover, simple comparisons with organic-matter production suggest that elevated atmospheric CO2and warmer temperatures will accelerate carbon accumulation in marsh soils, and potentially enhance their ability to survive sea-level rise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4801-4808
Number of pages8
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 11 2014
Externally publishedYes

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© 2014 Author(s).


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