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date: 27 September 2023

Carbon, Coast, and the Climatelocked

Carbon, Coast, and the Climatelocked

  • Katja Fennel, Katja FennelDalhousie University
  • Tyler Cyronak, Tyler CyronakNova Southeastern University
  • Michael DeGrandpre, Michael DeGrandpreUniversity of Montana
  • David T. Ho, David T. HoUniversity of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
  • Goulven G. Laruelle, Goulven G. LaruelleUniversité Libre de Bruxelles
  • Damien MaherDamien MaherSouthern Cross University
  •  and Julia MoriartyJulia MoriartyUniversity of Colorado Boulder


The Earth’s climate is strongly affected by the partitioning of carbon between its mobile reservoirs, primarily between the atmosphere and the ocean. The distribution between the reservoirs is being massively perturbed by human activities, primarily due to fossil fuel emissions, with a range of consequences, including ocean warming and acidification, sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and changes in ocean productivity. These changes directly impact valuable habitats in many coastal regions and threaten the important services the habitats provide to mankind. Among the most productive and diverse systems are coral reefs and vegetated habitats, including saltmarshes, seagrass meadows, and mangroves. Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to ocean warming and acidification. Vegetated habitats are receiving heightened attention for their ability to sequester carbon, but they are being impacted by land-use change, sea-level rise, and climate change. Overall, coasts play an important, but poorly quantified, role in the global cycling of carbon. Carbon reservoirs on land and in the ocean are connected through the so-called land–ocean aquatic continuum, which includes rivers, estuaries, and the coastal ocean. Terrestrial carbon from soils and rocks enters this continuum via inland water networks and is subject to transformations and exchanges with the atmosphere and sediments during its journey along the aquatic continuum. The expansive permafrost regions, comprised of ground on land and in the seabed that has been frozen for many years, are of increasing concern because they store vast amounts of carbon that is being mobilized due to warming. Quantitative estimates of these transformations and exchanges are relatively uncertain, in large part because the systems are diverse and the fluxes are highly variable in space and time, making observation at the necessary spatial and temporal coverage challenging. But despite their uncertainty, existing estimates point to an important role of these systems in global carbon cycling.


  • Hydrological Cycle
  • Climate Systems and Climate Dynamics
  • Climate Impact: Marine Ecosystems
  • Development and Sustainability
  • Climate and Coasts

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