Partitioning the relative contributions of organic matter and mineral sediment to accretion rates in carbonate platform mangrove soils

Document Type


Publication details

Breithaupt, JL, Smoak, JM, Rivera-Monroy, VH, Castañeda-Moya, E, Moyer, RP, Simard, M & Sanders, CJ 2017, 'Partitioning the relative contributions of organic matter and mineral sediment to accretion rates in carbonate platform mangrove soils', Marine Geology, vol. 390, pp. 170-180.

Published version available at:


Peer Reviewed



In coming decades, the global rate of sea-level rise (SLR) is projected to accelerate beyond rates observed over the past several millennia when mangrove wetlands have expanded in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate regions. There is substantial uncertainty about how distinct mangrove ecotypes inhabiting a wide range of geomorphic settings will respond to SLR acceleration, including the thresholds at which they will submerge permanently. In this study, the relative contributions of soil organic and inorganic matter (SOM and SIM) to 210Pb-derived accretion rates were examined at 23 mangrove sites in southwest Florida, USA and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. These sites are situated atop carbonate platforms where there is wide variation in the availability of SIM (generally marine marl). To account for this variability, research sites were classified by SIM presence based on the SOM content (%) estimated using loss-on-ignition: organic sites (SOM > 70%), intermediate sites (SOM = 40–70%) and mineral sites (SOM < 40%).

SOM accumulation rates were largely the same in the three soil classes during the past century (p < 0.05); however, SIM accumulation rates in the intermediate and mineral sites were approximately 5 and 20 times greater, respectively, than rates in the organic sites. Despite this substantial difference in total mass accumulation rates, accretion rates were not statistically different between soil classes (p < 0.05). Our analysis revealed that the rate of SOM accumulation is the best predictor of accretion rates, while the rate of SIM accumulation primarily predicts soil dry bulk density. These findings indicate that SOM and SIM do not contribute additively to soil volume. This is contrary to findings from North American coastal wetlands broadly, suggesting a unique characteristic of carbonate platform mangrove soils that lack a regular, substantive supply of terrigenous SIM.

Overall, accretion rates in the FL sites and a Yucatan site on the Caribbean Sea are maintaining pace with regional rates of SLR over the past 100-year and 50-year timespans, whereas the sites in Celestun Lagoon, MX (located on the Gulf of Mexico) exhibit an accretion deficit. Estimates of regional SLR rates range from 4.6 to 12.2 mm yr− 1 by the year 2060. Based on accretion rates observed in the past century, some of these sites may be able to keep pace with the lower SLR estimate, but there is no evidence that any of these sites can match the higher rate