Wetlands represent the largest component of the terrestrial biological carbon pool and thus play an important role in global carbon cycles. Most global carbon budgets, however, have focused on dry land ecosystems that extend over large areas and have not accounted for the many small, scattered carbon-storing ecosystems such as tidal saline wetlands. We compiled data for 154 sites in mangroves and salt marshes from the western and eastern Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. The set of sites spans a latitudinal range from 22.4??S in the Indian Ocean to 55.5??N in the northeastern Atlantic. The average soil carbon density of mangrove swamps (0.055 ?? 0.004 g cm-3) is significantly higher than the salt marsh average (0.039 ?? 0.003 g cm-3). Soil carbon density in mangrove swamps and Spartina patens marshes declines with increasing average annual temperature, probably due to increased decay rates at higher temperatures. In contrast, carbon sequestration rates were not significantly different between mangrove swamps and salt marshes. Variability in sediment accumulation rates within marshes is a major control of carbon sequestration rates masking any relationship with climatic parameters. Globally, these combined wetlands store at least 44.6 Tg C yr-1 and probably more, as detailed areal inventories are not available for salt marshes in China and South America. Much attention has been given to the role of freshwater wetlands, particularly northern peatlands, as carbon sinks. In contrast to peatlands, salt marshes and mangroves release negligible amounts of greenhouse gases and store more carbon per unit area. Copyright 2003 by the American Geophysical Union.