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Carbon Sinks in Tidal Landscapes

Carbon sinks are defined as entities that absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than they release, and environmental scientists have long recognized plants, the ocean, and soil as prime examples of such sinks. New studies reveal that tidal landscapes, increasingly inundated by rising sea levels every year, are significantly larger carbon sinks than previously


Carbon dioxide is not considered a pollutant, but it is unarguably a greenhouse gas whose continuous and increasing emission is elevating the effects of global warming at an exponential rate. Tidal landscapes, including mangroves and salt marshes, are tirelessly working to counteract these emissions by effectively sequestering carbon around the clock. A study at the University of Gothenburg conducted by marine chemistry researcher Gloria Reithmaier discovered that carbon dioxide is stored in the muddy soils and biomass of these ecosystems during high tide and released back into the ocean as bicarbonate. Bicarbonate, a compound form of carbon, is utilized in the construction of shells and coral skeletons and is considered harmless to marine life (University of Gothenburg, 2024). This ecosystem is classified as a “blue carbon ecosystem” because, in addition to absorbing carbon like other carbon sinks, it also recycles it into bicarbonate. Outwelling could play a crucial role in mitigating climate change. However, most global carbon sink preservation efforts prioritize large-scale terrestrial ecosystems, often overlooking the small yet impactful scattered ecosystems engaged in significant carbon sequestration (Chmura et al., 2003).  As the earth warms and ice melts, rising sea levels lead to high tides encroaching further inland, gradually submerging mangroves and salt marshes. Global carbon cycles and global temperature at large can be much more severely impacted by tidal wetlands than previously known to the scientific world, and it is essential to spread this knowledge and gain more protections for these ecosystems.


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