C-side (Carbon storage in intertidal environments)

Salt marshes are under threat; an estimated 25% of global saltmarsh habitat has been lost since the 1800’s, with assessments predicting that a further 50% of the world’s salt marshes may permanently disappear by the end of this century from erosion and coastal squeeze. The quantity of the salt marsh carbon stocks lost due to this widespread habitat disturbance is unknown but global carbon sequestration has undoubtedly been diminished with the loss of salt marsh habitat. Restoration of salt marshes may therefore offer relatively cost-effective mechanisms to halt the loss of, or increase carbon sequestration and long-term carbon storage. Salt marshes can be resilient sea-level rise, because their potential to trap particles (which includes carbon) increases with the deepening of the water column. However, the role of sea-level rise as a driver of carbon storage in saltmarshes, and its interactive effects with e.g. sediment supply and tidal range, has never been quantitatively assessed. 

The NERC funded C-SIDE project is striving to produce the first large-scale empirical study of saltmarsh carbon accretion rate, its drivers and the long-term stability/resilience of these carbon stores.  The outcomes of the work will provide practical guidance for coastal managers and inform shoreline policy to safeguard carbon storage in the intertidal zone.  This work is being done by Natasha Barlow at Leeds with colleagues from the Universities of St Andrews, Bangor, York and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.