What is coastal blue carbon?
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas created by burning fossil fuels like gasoline and coal, as well as solid waste and wood. "Coastal blue carbon" is the term used when carbon dioxide is absorbed and stored in coastal habitats like salt marshes, mangroves, and seagrass beds.
These habitats can absorb large quantities of carbon, thus decreasing the effects of global warming. They are sometimes referred to as "carbon sinks," as they may contain carbon accumulated over hundreds to thousands of years. ("Coastal green carbon" refers to this phenomenon farther inland, such as in tropical forests.)
Why is coastal blue carbon important?
Research shows that mangroves and coastal wetlands sequester carbon at a rate 10 times greater than tropical forests. They also store three to five times more carbon per acre than tropical forests. This is because most coastal blue carbon is stored in the soil, not in above-ground plants like tropical forests.
When these habitats are damaged or destroyed, their capacity for carbon sequestration is lost. In addition, the carbon stored in the habitats is also released, which then increases the levels of carbon in the atmosphere. Coastal habitats around the world are being lost at a rapid rate, largely due to coastal development.
What is NOAA Fisheries doing to protect blue carbon?
We are working to advance awareness of coastal blue carbon by:
Supporting the national blue carbon community in understanding how blue carbon can support fisheries habitat, and how stakeholders use this information to enhance management and support restoration and conservation efforts.
Supporting Restore America’s Estuaries Blue Carbon Buzz and other blue carbon community of practice efforts.
Advancing research on blue carbon with respect to natural infrastructure and living shorelines to examine factors driving carbon sequestration and burial rates.
Coordinating with the new Coastal Carbon Research Coordination Network to accelerate scientific discovery, advance science-informed policy, and improve coastal ecosystem management.
Continuing to support the inclusion of coastal wetlands in the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
Helping to develop and use protocols for including coastal carbon services in carbon markets. This could encourage increased private investment in coastal habitat conservation.