“Blue carbon” is a term experts use to define the coastal ecosystems that sequester, or store, climate change-causing carbon from the atmosphere. While salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses make up only a fraction of the vast ocean, they are particularly effective at storing carbon; recent studies have shown that these ecosystems may be able to store an amount of carbon up to five times greater than tropical forests.
Unfortunately, these ecosystems are also in trouble; climate change, coastal development, aquaculture, pollution and many other threats endanger their health and ability to absorb and store enormous amounts of carbon. When degraded or destroyed, blue carbon systems release the carbon stored in them back into the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change.
But efforts to change that are underway. Last week, CI hosted the first Blue Carbon Policy Working Group Workshop — sponsored by CI, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Oceanographic Commission in partnership with the Linden Trust — at our offices in Arlington, Virginia. Many of the participants have already made great progress toward bringing current scientific knowledge on the value of blue carbon to political arenas around the world.
At the workshop, our in-depth discussions led us to develop a strategic framework for including blue carbon ecosystem protection and restoration measures in international policy agreements and building support for funding these efforts. This framework will be implemented globally by the working group, CI and partners over the coming year. Participants in this workshop will carry the strategy developed here to the Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group Workshop in Bali later this month — more on that, later.
Emily Pidgeon is the senior director of strategic marine initiatives in CI’s Global Marine program. To learn more about blue carbon, download our blue carbon factsheet (PDF – 553.09 KB).