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Long-Term Carbon Sinks in Marsh Soils of Coastal Louisiana Are at Risk to Wetland Loss

Leland Moss, Abt Associates; Melissa M. Baustian and Tim J.B. Carruthers, The Water Institute of the Gulf; Camille L. Stagg, U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center; Carey L. Perry, Vernadero Group Incorporated


April 8, 2021

Without restoration efforts in coastal Louisiana, marshes in the state could lose half of their current ability to store carbon in the soil over the next 50 years. Coastal Louisiana carbon burial is critical to understand in a global context, as it accounts for 5 percent to 21 percent of the world’s marsh/mangrove landscape in which carbon is buried. In the article,  the authors examined 24 south Louisiana sites. Due to the evolving nature of coastal wetland habitats, simply looking at current carbon accumulation might not reflect how much carbon was buried historically or how much carbon can be buried in the future, both of which can indicate how much carbon could be released into the atmosphere. This is especially true in Louisiana, where high rates of land loss is a continuing concern. Together, the authors used marsh habitat maps from 1949 to 2013, deep soil cores, soil carbon accumulation rates, and maps of future modeled marsh area to confirm the importance of considering historical habitats when evaluating a coastal area’s long-term status as a carbon sink (an area with the ability to store carbon in the soil).