Last week I traveled to Bali, Indonesia to lead a meeting of 30 international experts to discuss “blue carbon” — coastal ecosystems that sequester carbon from the atmosphere and store it in roots and soils. The meeting was the second in a series of workshops designed to synthesize global knowledge of the blue carbon stored in mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes — which, per square kilometer, is up to five times the amount stored in tropical rainforests.
This expert group has come together at a crucial time; these ecosystems are being degraded and destroyed at a rapid pace along the world’s coastlines, inhibiting Earth’s ability to sequester carbon and contributing greatly to climate change through increased carbon dioxide emissions.
Indonesia was chosen as the meeting spot because its many islands are home to some of the world’s largest stores of blue carbon — 23 percent of the world’s mangroves are in Indonesia, making this the most mangrove-rich country. Additionally, Indonesia has the largest area of seagrass systems, which store massive amounts of carbon in their soils.
Many Indonesian scientists from the Indonesian Agency for Fisheries and Marine Life joined the workshop, interested in learning what they could be doing to protect their country’s coastal systems. They see these ecosystems disappearing throughout Indonesia and are serious about protecting their coasts. One Indonesian expert, Dr. Andreas Hutahaean, told us about a mangrove and seagrass project recently begun in western Java’s Banten Bay that aims to acquire rigorous scientific research through seawater analysis, and soil and biomass sampling of mangroves and seagrasses. This research will bolster the development of national policies protecting Indonesia’s blue carbon sinks.
At the meeting, participants discussed ways to improve global data collection, standardize blue carbon field measurements, and how to best integrate the latest science to influence global change. This groundwork is a significant step toward a greater understanding of why and how we can save our coasts not only for their carbon storage, but also for the coastal protection and food security they provide.
Working together, we also designed a country-wide strategy for research, policy and field projects in Indonesia. It was truly rewarding for me and all participants of this workshop to work with new Indonesian colleagues and friends. Conservation International looks forward to supporting the government of Indonesia as they work to implement this strategy, and I am excited to return to Indonesia and work with Indonesian scientists on conserving their country’s blue carbon.
Emily Pidgeon is the senior director of strategic marine initiatives in CI’s Global Marine division. To learn more about blue carbon, download our blue carbon factsheet (PDF — 553.09 KB).