NEW: Landmark protocol allows coastal wetlands globally to generate carbon finance on the carbon market. Read more here.
What is Blue Carbon?
Blue carbon is the ability of tidal wetlands and seagrass habitats to sequester and store carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Learn more about Blue Carbon:
- Understand the science of how blue carbon can mitigate climate change
- Learn how Blue Carbon can be used to finance wetland restoration through carbon markets
- Blue Carbon could be integrated into existing policies and regulations to benefit wetland conservation: Considering "Coastal Carbon" in Existing U.S. Federal Statutes and Policies
- Gain a better understanding of how blue carbon can be used as a conservation tool with our Template for Understanding Blue Carbon Options
Restore America's Estuaries is leading the U.S. effort to advance Blue Carbon by:
- Advancing science and understanding on carbon sequestration, storage and loss occurring in wetland habitats (Check out our 2014 Snohomish Estuary Blue Carbon Assessment)
- Piloting entry of coastal wetlands into the voluntary carbon market
- Building capacity and raising awareness in coastal communities through our webinars and workshops
- Developing tools and resources to use blue carbon as a conservation tool
- Coordinating national and regional working groups to increase collaboration on blue carbon research and projects
Learn the basics: Blue Carbon Fact Sheet
More about Blue Carbon
Blue carbon is the ability of tidal wetlands and seagrass habitats to sequester, store or release carbon and other greenhouse gases.
Blue carbon ecosystems – seagrass beds, mangroves, salt marshes, and other tidal wetlands – capture atmospheric carbon and store it in the ground at rates 10 times greater than forests on a per area basis. Unlike forests, wetlands' primarily carbon storage is in the soils (rather than in the above ground plant materials) where it can remain stored for centuries or more.1
When these ecosystems are drained or degraded, the stored carbon can be rapidly released back into the atmosphere - sometimes releasing centuries worth of stored carbon in only a few decades. Protecting our remaining coastal wetland ecosystems not only protects the ecosystem services provided by these habitats (improved water quality, storm protection, key marine habitat) , but it can also be a way to mitigate climate change.
The Intersection of Coastal Habitat Restoration, Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Planning
Climate change - through a warming world, sea-level rise, and changing precipitation patterns - will significantly reshape our coastal landscape. In many ways, our coasts and estuaries are both the first line of defense and a measuring stick for climate change impacts. Coastal and estuarine habitat restoration is a key strategy in adapting to climate change, as well as mitigating its impacts.
Through conservation efforts, the carbon stored in wetland stays locked up in plant material and soil. Through restoration efforts, more carbon can be sequestered by wetlands, thus mitigating climate change, while providing for all of the other important services wetlands provide.
Hummer driving 15,000 miles emits 11 tons CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents)
Prius driving 15,000 miles emits 3.7 tons CO2e
....while just 1 hectare (about 0.004 square miles) of Salt Marsh REMOVES 8 tons CO2e every year.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
Wetlands store the majority of carbon in their soils. When wetland soils are disturbed, carbon stored in salt marshes and mangroves may be released directly into the atmosphere through oxidation, which converts soil carbon into atmospheric CO2. An estimated 0.15 to 1.02 billion tons of CO2 are released every year due to the degredation or destruction of wetlands. This is roughly equivalent to the total emissions of Japan in 2008, signifying a need to protect our remaining wetland resources.
1E. Pidgeon. 2009. “Carbon Sequestration by Coastal Marine Habitats: Important Missing Sinks.”