Monday, January 23, 2012
The Blue Carbon Strategy by Mico Tatalovic
Mangrove forests, seagrass beds and salt marshes possess a huge carbon storage capacity, which scientists say can be used to mitigate climate change. Known as blue carbon, this resource could one day be quantified and sold on international carbon trading markets.
Mangrove forests, seagrass beds and salt marshes cover only around 0.5% of the seabed, but account for some 70% of the ocean's carbon storage capacity.
These three marine environments soak up and store carbon dioxide in their biomass and sediments, where they keep it locked up for centuries. Together with the carbon held in the rest of the ocean, this is known as 'blue carbon'.
Blue carbon is also the name of a new strategic approach to make use of the large carbon capture and storage potential of coastal ecosystems. If this carbon could be quantified and sold on international carbon trading markets, this could help fund preservation and restoration projects, which would also help capture more carbon and ease the effects of climate change.
Apart from sequestering carbon quicker than the same area of rainforests can, these three ecosystems provide other 'eco-services' which are especially valuable for vulnerable coastal communities in developing countries. These include food and energy, protecting shorelines from flood and tsunamis, filtering water, as well as recreation and tourism.
But aquaculture, agricultural development and pollution are now responsible for loss of these ecosystems at a rate of up to four times that of rainforest loss. Around 20% of mangroves and more than 50% of seagrass ecosystems have been lost in the last 25 years, and salt marshes are being lost at a rate 1 to 2% per year.
Because of the huge amount of carbon stored in mangroves, the global emissions from mangrove deforestation account for around 10% of all emissions from deforestation, despite making up just 0.7% of tropical forest area.