Sources, Sinks, and Subsidies: Terrestrial Carbon Storage in Mid-latitude Fjords

Craig Smeaton, William E. N. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Fjords are recognized as globally important sites for the burial and long-term storage of carbon (C) within sediments. The proximity of fjords to the terrestrial environment in combination with their geomorphology and hydrography results in the fjordic sediments being subsidized with organic carbon (OC) from the terrestrial environment. It has been well documented that terrestrial OC (OCterr) is an important component of coastal sediments, yet our understanding of the quantity of OCterr stored in these sediments remains poorly constrained. Utilizing Bayesian isotopic sediment fingerprinting techniques to the surface sediments of Loch Sunart, we estimate that 42.0 ± 10.1% of the OC is terrestrial in origin. Through combining these outputs with sedimentary OC stock estimates, we have calculated that the surface sediments (0–15 cm) hold 0.1 megaton (Mt) OCterr and estimate that the postglacial sediment held within the fjord contains 3.96 Mt OCterr. When these totals are compared to the quantity of OC stored in the adjacent terrestrial environment, it is clear that the fjord's catchment stores a greater amount of OCterr in the form of vegetation and soil. Though when normalized for area the results suggest that the marine sediments are a more effective long-term store of OCterr than the adjacent terrestrial environment. This striking result highlights the importance of the terrestrial environment as a source of OC to the coastal ocean and that the OCterr subsidy to the marine sediments is a significant mechanism for the long-term storage of OC in coastal marine sediments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2754-2768
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017


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