Carbon storage in the seagrass meadows of Gazi Bay, Kenya
Vegetated marine habitats are globally important carbon sinks, making a significant contribution towards mitigating climate change, and they provide a wide range of other ecosystem services. However, large gaps in knowledge remain, particularly for seagrass meadows in Africa. This study estimated biomass and sediment organic carbon (Corg) stocks of four dominant seagrass species in Gazi Bay, Kenya. It compared sediment Corg between seagrass areas in vegetated and un-vegetated ‘controls’, using the naturally patchy occurence of seagrass at this site to test the impacts of seagrass growth on sediment Corg. It also explored relationships between the sediment and above-ground Corg as well as between the total biomass and above-ground parameters. Sediment Corg was significantly different between species, and ranged from 160.7 – 233.8 Mg C ha-1 (compared to the global range of 115.3 to 829.2 Mg C ha-1). Vegetated areas in all species had significantly higher sediment Corg compared with un-vegetated controls; the prescence of seagrass increased Corg by 4-6 times. Biomass carbon differed significantly between species with means ranging between 4.8 – 7.1 Mg C ha-1 compared to the global range of 2.5 – 7.3 Mg C ha-1. To our knowledge these are the first results on seagrass sediment Corg to be reported from African seagrass beds; and contribute towards our understanding of the role of seagrass in global carbon dynamics.