What is Blue Carbon and Why does it matter?
Blue carbon is the term for carbon stored in coastal and ocean ecosystems. Seagrass beds, seaweed forests, mangroves, and salt marshes along our coast capture carbon, acting as carbon sinks. These coastal systems not only sequester and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests but also do it at a much faster rate than forests. And unlike “green carbon” forests, which release carbon when the trees die, marine ecosystems store most of the carbon in their soil and sediment. If undisturbed, it stays there for millennia.
The bigger picture of blue carbon is one of coastal habitat conservation. Most of the carbon taken up by these marine ecosystems is stored below ground in their soil and sediment, so when these systems are damaged, an enormous amount of carbon is emitted back into the atmosphere, where it can then contribute to climate change. If undisturbed, blue carbon stays underground for millennia, so by conserving coastal habitats we halt climate change.
What would be even more interesting here is to increase the amount of carbon taken on by these marine ecosystems by extending the areas of these blue carbon sinks and making sure that they are protected and monitored.
Experts in the Field
The International Blue Carbon Initiative, an initiative by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and Conservation International, is a global program focused on mitigating climate change through the conservation and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems.
Ocean2050 is leading the global effort to quantify seaweed carbon sequestration. This ongoing study is assessing the role of seaweed aquaculture as a key recovery wedge for the world’s oceans and the climate.