Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Sources, sinks and subsidies: terrestrial carbon storage in mid-latitude fjords

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Open Access permissions



Fjords are recognized as globally important sites for the burial and long-term storage of carbon (C) within sediments. The proximity of fjords to the terrestrial environment in combination with their geomorphology and hydrography results in the fjordic sediments being subsidized with organic carbon (OC) from the terrestrial environment. It has been well documented that terrestrial OC (OCterr) is an important component of coastal sediments, yet our understanding of the quantity of OCterr stored in these sediments remains poorly constrained. Utilizing Bayesian isotopic sediment fingerprinting techniques to the surface sediments of Loch Sunart, we estimate that 42.0 ± 10.1% of the OC is terrestrial in origin. Through combining these outputs with sedimentary OC stock estimates, we have calculated that the surface sediments (0–15 cm) hold 0.1 megaton (Mt) OCterr and estimate that the postglacial sediment held within the fjord contains 3.96 Mt OCterr. When these totals are compared to the quantity of OC stored in the adjacent terrestrial environment, it is clear that the fjord's catchment stores a greater amount of OCterr in the form of vegetation and soil. Though when normalized for area the results suggest that the marine sediments are a more effective long-term store of OCterr than the adjacent terrestrial environment. This striking result highlights the importance of the terrestrial environment as a source of OC to the coastal ocean and that the OCterr subsidy to the marine sediments is a significant mechanism for the long-term storage of OC in coastal marine sediments.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2754-2768
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences
Issue number11
Early online date2 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2017

    Research areas

  • Carbon, Fjord, Sediment, Land-sea interactions, Terrestrial, Isotope

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Scotland's forgotten carbon: a national assessment of mid-latitude fjord sedimentary stocks

    Smeaton, C., Austin, W. E. N., Davies, A., Baltzer, A., Howe, J. A. & Baxter, J. M., 15 Dec 2017, In : Biogeosciences. 14, 24, p. 5663-5674

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Assessment of blue carbon resources in Scotland’s Inshore Marine Protected Area Network: Commissioned Report No. 957

    Burrows, M., Hughes, D., Austin, W. E. N., Smeaton, C., Hicks, N., Howe, J., Allen, C., Taylor, P. & Vare, L., 2017, Inverness: Scottish Natural Heritage. 283 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

  3. Substantial stores of sedimentary carbon held in mid-latitude fjords

    Smeaton, C., Austin, W., Davies, A., Baltzar, A., Abell, R. E. & Howe, J. A., 19 Oct 2016, In : Biogeosciences. 13, 20, p. 5771-5787

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Marine bivalve feeding strategies and radiocarbon ages in Northeast Atlantic coastal waters

    Lo Giudice Cappelli, E. & Austin, W. E. N., 1 Jul 2019, In : Radiocarbon. First View, 19 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. The genetic diversity, morphology, biogeography, and taxonomic designations of Ammonia (Foraminifera) in the Northeast Atlantic

    Bird, C., Schweizer, M., Roberts, A., Austin, W. E. N., Knudsen, K. L., Evans, K. M., Filipsson, H. L., Sayer, M. D. J., Geslin, E. & Darling, K. F., 19 Feb 2019, In : Marine Micropaleontology.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences (Journal)

    Craig Smeaton (Member of editorial board)
    2017 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

Related by journal

  1. Stabilizing effects of bacterial biofilms: EPS penetration and re-distribution of bed stability down the sediment profile

    Chen, X. D., Zhang, C. K., Zhou, Z., Gong, Z., Zhou, J. J., Tao, J. F., Paterson, D. M. & Feng, Q., Dec 2017, In : Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences. 122, 12, p. 3113-3125 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Origin and temporal variability of unusually low δ13C-DOC values in two High Arctic catchments

    Hindshaw, R., Lang, S., Bernasconi, S., Heaton, T., Lindsay, M. & Boyd, E., Apr 2016, In : Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences. 121, 4, p. 1073-1085

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 251032341