Substantial stores of sedimentary carbon held in mid-latitude fjords

Craig Smeaton, William Austin, Althea Davies, A. Baltzar, R. E. Abell, J. A. Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Quantifying marine sedimentary carbon stocks is key to improving our understanding of longterm storage of carbon in the coastal ocean and to further constraining the global carbon cycle. Here we present a methodological approach which combines seismic geophysics and geochemical measurements to quantitatively estimate the total stock of carbon held within marine sediment. Through the application of this methodology to Loch Sunart a fjord on the west coast of Scotland, we have generated the first full sedimentary carbon inventory for a fjordic system. The sediments of Loch Sunart hold 26.9 ± 0.5 Mt of carbon split between 11.5 ± 0.2 Mt and 15.0 ± 0.4 Mt of organic and inorganic carbon respectively. These new quantitative estimates of carbon stored in coastal sediments are significantly higher than previous estimates. Through an area normalised comparison to adjacent Scottish peatland carbon stocks we have determined that these mid–latitude fjords are significantly more effective as carbon stores than their terrestrial counterparts. This initial work supports the concept that fjords are important environments for the burial and long-term storage of carbon and therefore should be considered and treated as unique environments within the global carbon cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5771-5787
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2016


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