Benthic biodiversity, carbon storage and the potential for increasing negative feedbacks on climate change in shallow waters of the Antarctic Peninsula
Seafloor biodiversity provides a key ecosystem service, as an efficient route for carbon to be removed from the atmosphere to become buried (long-term) in marine sediment. Protecting near intact ecosystems, particularly those that are hotspots of biodiversity, with high numbers of unique species (endemics), is increasingly being recognised as the best route to protect existing blue carbon. This study measured globally significant stocks of blue carbon held within both rocky (17.5 tonnes carbon km−2) and soft (4.1 t C km−2) substrata shallow (20 m) seafloor communities along the Antarctic Peninsula. Along the 7998 km of seasonally ice-free shoreline, 59% of known dive sites were classified as rocky and 12% as soft substratum. This gave estimates of 253k t C in animals and plants found at 20 m depth, with a potential sequestration of 4.5k t C year−1. More carbon was stored in assemblages with greater functional groups. Of the Antarctic Peninsula shore, 54% is still permanently ice covered, and so blue carbon ecosystem services are expected to more than double with continued climate warming. As one of the few increasing negative feedbacks against climate change, protecting seafloor communities around the Antarctic is expected to help tackle both the biodiversity and climate crises.
Authors: Morley, Simon A. ORCID record for Simon A. Morley, Souster, Terri A. ORCID record for Terri A. Souster, Vause, Belinda J., Gerrish, Laura ORCID record for Laura Gerrish, Peck, Lloyd S. ORCID record for Lloyd S. Peck, Barnes, David K.A. ORCID record for David K.A. Barnes