Australia is launching one of the most ambitious ‘blue carbon’ mapping projects ever. ‘Blue carbon’ is the capture and storage of carbon pollution from the atmosphere in ocean plants and sediments on the seabed. Once carbon is captured and stored in seagrass beds, mangroves, or salt marshes, it’s usually stable and can stay there thousands of years.
Australia is a big player in blue carbon, with 16,000 miles of coastline. The new $3 million, 3 year collaborative research project seeks to understand “the important role of Australia’s coastal and marine wetlands in storing atmospheric carbon dioxide”, according to CSIRO, the institution leading the project.
Most blue carbon action is along coastlines for two reasons. One, we can do something about it! We can actively protect and restore coastal ecosystems to increase blue carbon storage. Second, these areas are special when it comes to blue carbon. Half the Earth’s blue carbon uptake happens along just the 2% of ocean area that borders land masses – in other words, along the coasts.
Researchers with the National Science Foundation last year reported that seagrass meadows store ninety percent of their carbon in the soil--and continue to build on it for centuries–and that on a per acre basis they can store more than twice as much carbon annually as forests.
Conserving and restoring coastal habitats is not only a biocarbon solution; it can be extremely beneficial for fisheries, help address ocean acidification, and boost the tourism experience.
Closer to home we heard last week at our Biocarbon Town Hall event from local innovator Keeley O’Connell of Earth Corps. She’s leading blue carbon projects at Tacoma's Commencement Bay, Seattle's Duwamish River, and the Snohomish River estuary between Everett and Marysville. Earth Corps is participating in a national pilot project to better understand the huge biocarbon storage capacity of tidal wetlands.