Seagrass meadows are globally important sinks of ‘Blue Carbon’, but warming water temperatures due to climate change may undermine their capacity to sequester and retain organic carbon (Corg). We tested the effects of warming on seagrass Corg stocks in situ by transplanting seagrass soil cores along a thermal plume generated by a coal-fired power plant in a seagrass-dominated estuary (Lake Macquarie, Australia). Transplanted cores were subjected to temperatures 2 and 4 °C above ambient temperatures and Corg content was measured after 7, 30, 90 and 180 days. We were unable to detect any significant effect of warming on Corg concentration, stocks, chemical composition (as measured by labile, recalcitrant, refractory ratios), or microbial abundance at any time point. In fact, Corg levels were temporally variable. These findings contrast those of previous studies (mostly laboratory-based) that have reported increases in microbial remineralisation (breakdown) of Corg in response to warming. To explain the lack of any detectable warming effect, we suggest that higher temperatures, longer durations of warming exposure, or additional stressors (e.g., oxygen exposure) may be needed to overcome microbial activation barriers and stimulate Corg remineralisation.
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