Exploring the ecosystem engineering ability of Red Sea shallow benthic habitats using stocks and fluxes in carbon biogeochemistry

  • Kimberlee Baldry

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The coastal ocean is a marginal region of the global ocean, but is home to metabolically intense ecosystems which increase the structural complexity of the benthos. These ecosystems have the ability to alter the carbon chemistry of surrounding waters through their metabolism, mainly through processes which directly release or consume carbon dioxide. In this way, coastal habitats can engineer their environment by acting as sources or sinks of carbon dioxide and altering their environmental chemistry from the regional norm. In most coastal water masses, it is difficult to resolve the ecosystem effect on coastal carbon biogeochemistry due to the mixing of multiple offshore end members, complex geography or the influence of variable freshwater inputs. The Red Sea provides a simple environment for the study of ecosystem processes at a coastal scale as it contains only one offshore end-member and negligible freshwater inputs due to the arid climate of adjacent land. This work explores the ability of three Red Sea benthic coastal habitats (coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests) to create characteristic ecosystem end-members, which deviate from the biogeochemistry of offshore source waters. This is done by both calculating non-conservative deviations in carbonate stocks collected over each ecosystem, and by quantifying net carbonate fluxes (in seagrass meadows and mangrove forests only) using 24 hour incubations. Results illustrate that carbonate stocks over ecosystems conform to broad ecosystem trends, which are different to the offshore end-member, and are influenced by inherited properties from surrounding ecosystems. Carbonate fluxes also show ecosystem dependent trends and further illustrate the importance of sediment processes in influencing CaCO3 fluxes in blue carbon benthic habitats, which warrants further attention. These findings show the respective advantages of studying both carbonate stocks and fluxes of coastal benthic ecosystems in order to understand the spatial, temporal and net effects of their metabolism on the coastal ocean.
Date of AwardDec 2017
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorCarlos Duarte (Supervisor)


  • Biogeochemistry
  • Coastal ocean
  • Carbon
  • Sea Grass
  • Mangroves
  • Coral Reef

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