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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 720:25-37 (2023)  -  DOI:

Contribution of microphytobenthos to the carbon sink in brackish and freshwater tidal flats of the Yangtze Estuary

Hua-Yu Chen1, Yu-Jie Hua1, Rui-Ting Gu1, Ting-Ting Liu1, Jian-Wu Tang1,2, Wei Zhang1, Zhen-Ming Ge1,2,*

1State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, Institute of Eco-Chongming, Center for Blue Carbon Science and Technology, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, PR China
2Yangtze Delta Estuarine Wetland Ecosystem Observation and Research Station, Ministry of Education & Shanghai Science and Technology Committee, Shanghai 202162, PR China
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Estuarine and coastal wetlands have great potential as carbon sinks; however, the carbon fluxes that occur in unvegetated tidal flats remain largely unknown. The CO2 flux of tidal flats is mainly controlled by CO2 uptake by microphytobenthos (MPB) and CO2 emission by sediment respiration. In this study, a brackish tidal flat (B-TF) and a freshwater tidal flat (F-TF) in the Yangtze Estuary were selected to investigate the effects of salinity on MPB growth (indicated by the content of chlorophyll a and pheopigment) and the CO2 flux of tidal flats (during daytime). The results showed that the sediment salinity at the B-TF was 5-19 times higher than that at the F-TF, depending on the season. Diatoms showed a dominant saltwater community at the B-TF and a freshwater community at the F-TF. Over spring, autumn, and winter, CO2 absorbed by the MPB was on average 113 and 230% of the CO2 emitted through sediment respiration of the B-TF and F-TF, respectively, showing a CO2 sink capacity. High salinity in winter inhibited sediment respiration and improved the physiological status of the MPB, making the B-TF a strong CO2 sink, whereas the F-TF was a strong CO2 sink in summer. The freshwater and dissolved (SiO32-) silicon input to the estuary via the river had significant effects on MPB growth and sediment respiration, which were also influenced by light, temperature, and pH. Our study highlights the importance of estuarine salinity fluctuations in the CO2 sinks of estuarine tidal flats, which should be given additional attention when assessing the role of tidal flats in CO2 mitigation.

KEY WORDS: Carbon flux · Coastal habitats · Freshwater marsh · Microphytobenthos · Salinity tolerance

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Cite this article as: Chen HY, Hua YJ, Gu RT, Liu TT, Tang JW, Zhang W, Ge ZM (2023) Contribution of microphytobenthos to the carbon sink in brackish and freshwater tidal flats of the Yangtze Estuary. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 720:25-37.

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