Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Temperature sensitivity of organic-matter decay in tidal marshes

January 1, 2014

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, Q10 = 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 CO2 and warmer temperatures will accelerate carbon accumulation in marsh soils, and potentially enhance their ability to survive sea-level rise.

Publication Year 2014
Title Temperature sensitivity of organic-matter decay in tidal marshes
DOI 10.5194/bg-11-4801-2014
Authors Matthew L. Kirwan, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, J.A. Langley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biogeosciences
Index ID 70148075
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center