There are few detailed carbon (C) budgets of mangrove forests, yet these are important for understanding C sequestration in mangrove forests, how they support the productivity of the coast and their vulnerability to environmental change. Here, we develop C budgets for mangroves on the islands of Twin Cays, Belize. We consider seaward fringing forests and interior scrub forests that have been fertilized with phosphorus (P), which severely limits growth of trees in the scrub forests. We found that respiration of the aboveground biomass accounted for 60%–80% of the fixed C and that respiration of the canopy and aboveground roots were important components of respiration. Soil respiration accounted for only 7%–11% of total gross primary production (GPP) while burial of C in soils was ~4% of GPP. Respiration by roots can account for the majority of soil respiration in fringing forests, while microbial processes may account 80% of respiration in scrub forests. Fertilization of scrub forests with P enhanced GPP but the proportion of C buried declined to ~2% of GPP. Net ecosystem production was 17%–27% of GPP similar to that reported for other mangrove forests. Carbon isotope signatures of adjacent seagrass suggest that dissolved C from mangroves is exported into the adjacent ecosystems. Our data indicate that C budgets can vary among mangrove forest types and with nutrient enrichment and that low productivity mangroves provide a disproportionate share of exported C.
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