Sunday, December 27, 2009

How to Go Green: Carbon Offsets

A carbon offset is a "financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions." Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere as a result our intensive use of fossil fuels. This is bad. One means of doing good is by paying to balance or "offset" the equation, by funding projects that reduce our emissions of carbon (and other greenhouse gases). To learn how all this works, we suggest Planet Green's "How to Go Green: Carbon Offsets."

Top Tips for Greening Your Carbon Offsets

Maintain Perspective: Carbon offsets are not ultimately the solution. Not even close. The best way to create change is to, well, change. Offsetting bad habits with good ones is a start but carbon offsets are best seen as a last resort, a stop gap until the actual habit is mitigated.

Don't Shoulder All the Eco-Blame: Huge multi-national corporations ravage the earth every single second of every single day in search of their beloved profits. The average greenie can only be blamed for this because of his/her silent complicity. The real offenders are going unpunished by deflecting all the eco-blame to us. So, let's all do our part—but more importantly, let's not forget where the real eco-blame lies. If we want a cleaner planet, we have to hold the corporations accountable.

DIY: In your daily life, you are already offsetting like a good greenie. You compost, you collect rainwater in a rain barrel, you signed up for Community Supported Agriculture, you belong to the community garden, you plant trees, you drive less, you don't eat meat, and so on. Keep up this work while pointing the accusing finger of eco-blame on those who create the most damage.

Did You Know?

  • The year the first carbon offset project was launched: 1989

  • The amount of money invested in the market for carbon offsets, in 2006: $5 billion

  • The United States is responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, although the U.S. has only 4.5% of the world's population

For more on Carbon Offset Tips check out Planet Green's Guide, How to Go Green: Carbon Offsets. For more on Going Green, check out the Planet Green How to Go Green Archives.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

To Save the Planet, Save the Seas

Great editorial in the New York Times on 'blue carbon' solutions and a positive outcome from Copenhagen by Dan Laffoley of the IUCN and Natural England.

"We urgently need to bring the ocean into the (climate) agenda alongside forests so that, as soon as possible, we can help the oceans to help us."

Thanks Dan!


FOR the many disappointments of the recent climate talks in Copenhagen, there was at least one clear positive outcome, and that was the progress made on a program called Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation. Under this program, key elements of which were agreed on at Copenhagen, developing countries would be compensated for preserving forests, peat soils, swamps and fields that are efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas linked to global warming.

This approach, which takes advantage of the power of nature itself, is an economical way to store large amounts of carbon. But the program is limited in that it includes only those carbon sinks found on land. We now need to look for similar opportunities to curb climate change in the oceans.

Few people may realize it, but in addition to producing most of the oxygen we breathe, the ocean absorbs some 25 percent of current annual carbon dioxide emissions. Half the world’s carbon stocks are held in plankton, mangroves, salt marshes and other marine life. So it is at least as important to preserve this ocean life as it is to preserve forests, to secure its role in helping us adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Sea-grass meadows, for example, which flourish in shallow coastal waters, account for 15 percent of the ocean’s total carbon storage, and underwater forests of kelp store huge amounts of carbon, just as forests do on land. The most efficient natural carbon sink of all is not on land, but in the ocean, in the form of Posidonia oceanica, a species of sea grass that forms vast underwater meadows that wave in the currents just as fields of grass on land sway in the wind.

Worldwide, coastal habitats like these are being lost because of human activity. Extensive areas have been altered by land reclamation and fish farming, while coastal pollution and overfishing have further damaged habitats and reduced the variety of species. It is now clear that such degradation has not only affected the livelihoods and well-being of more than two billion people dependent on coastal ecosystems for food, it has also reduced the capacity of these ecosystems to store carbon.

The case for better management of oceans and coasts is twofold. These healthy plant habitats help meet the needs of people adapting to climate change, and they also reduce greenhouse gases by storing carbon dioxide. Countries should be encouraged to establish marine protected areas — that is, set aside parts of the coast and sea where nature is allowed to thrive without undue human interference — and do what they can to restore habitats like salt marshes, kelp forests and sea-grass meadows.

Managing these habitats is far less expensive than trying to shore up coastlines after the damage has been done. Maintaining healthy stands of mangroves in Asia through careful management, for example, has proved to cost only one-seventh of what it would cost to erect manmade coastal defenses against storms, waves and tidal surges.

The discussions in Copenhagen have opened the way for all countries to improve the management of oceans and coasts to harness their immense potential to mitigate climate change — especially over the next decade, while the world’s politicians, scientists and engineers develop longer-term strategies for stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.

In their continuing negotiations on climate change, nations should now make it a priority to produce a single map of the world that documents all the different types of coastal carbon sinks, and identify the ones that are in most immediate need of preservation. New studies should be undertaken to better understand how best to manage these areas to increase carbon sequestration. Then, following the example of the forests program, it will be possible to establish formulas for compensating countries that preserve essential carbon sinks in the oceans.

We urgently need to bring the ocean into the agenda alongside forests so that, as soon as possible, we can help the oceans to help us.

Dan Laffoley is the marine vice chairman of the World Commission on Protected Areas at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the principal specialist for marine at Natural England.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

From the carbon storing and productive ecosystems of Biscayne Bay, Florida

When healthy, Biscayne Bay's coastal and marine ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, and saltwater marshlands absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and mitigate the threat of climate change.

A healthy Biscayne Bay is also vital for local tourism and many commercial and recreational fisheries.

That's two stone crabs I am holding (only harvest one claw per crab!).

Best wishes, Steven

The Blue Bayou Climate Solution

It's been said that rainforests are the lungs of the world. In fact its tiny photosynthetic algae in the ocean that account for over half the oxygen we breathe. The oceans are the drivers of weather and climate, the generators of rain and storms. The top two feet of the sea contain as much heat as the entire atmosphere. But the oceans are also among the most susceptible environments when it comes to feeling the impact from anthropogenic -- that is to say human generated -- atmospheric carbon (See my Sept. 22 blog 'Bad Acid Trip').

To date much of the discussion on solutions to rapid climate change and ways to reduce our carbon dioxide outputs have focused on industrial sources and on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The burning and clearing of global forests is the second largest source of human generated carbon after the burning of fossil fuels.

However, on October 14, the United Nation's Environmental Program released a report on "Blue Carbon," showing that as much as 7 percent of the carbon dioxide reductions needed to keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2 below 450 parts per million (the still too-high figure diplomats at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen are aiming for) could be achieved by restoring carbon sequestering mangrove forests, salt marshes, and seagrass beds around the world's ocean shores.

These key marine habitats, along with coral reefs, act as the wildlife nurseries of the sea and provide protection from storm surges and tsunamis and filter and purify coastal waters, so protecting them would also provide additional benefits beyond fighting climate change. That's the good news. The bad news, while covering only about .5 percent of the world's oceans and coasts, they are among the most endangered habitats on earth, being destroyed by coastal development, commercial shrimp farms, bottom dredging and fishing trawls, runoff pollution and landfill.

In a strange and disturbing symmetry the U.N. report suggests that while these habitats could reduce our carbon pollution 7 percent their present rate of loss is also around 7 percent annually so that many of these productive brackish and salt water domains could be gone by 2020.

The report warns there is an immediate need to mainstream an ocean agenda into the climate negotiations now taking place in Copenhagen and to develop a global Blue Carbon Fund equivalent to what's been discussed for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation (a REDD Fund). The report doesn't suggest a particular funding mechanism. Luckily I have an idea.

Almost all these Blue Carbon habitats exist in the territorial waters of coastal nations many of who already generate revenues by leasing their offshore waters to foreign fishing fleets and oil and gas companies. In the United States multi-billon dollar royalties are paid to the U.S. Treasury by the offshore oil and gas industry for operating on our public seas. This revenue stream shifts between the second and third largest source of government income after taxes and in close competition with custom tariffs, generating some five billion dollars a year.

Beginning in the 1960s a large part of these offshore revenues went to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund that offset the negative impacts of offshore drilling by buying up parks and wilderness areas for coastal protection and recreation. This was before we understood that oil drilling also represented a product liability issue. This product, used as directed, overheats your planet.

Today, along with land-based solar, wind, geothermal and other green energies a new sector for clean non-carbon production is emerging in offshore wind and tidal power, wave, current and ocean thermal energy conversion. As with oil and gas these offshore industries will be operating on public waters and subject to state and federal royalty payments.

It would make eminent sense if the public revenues generated by this new climate clean marine energy were used for a dedicated Blue Carbon Fund that would protect and restore carbon sequestering coastal wetlands, mangroves and seagrass meadows.

A recently established 'Blue Climate Coalition,' made up of marine scientists and conservationists from around the world is advocating for a range of funding mechanisms while also seeking increased scientific research funds to better understand the role these 'Blue Carbon' habitats play in regulating our climate.

Large scale restoration in the United States doesn't need to wait on the emergence of a clean-energy boom offshore however but could start immediately if we'd implement existing (though to date largely unfunded) federal and state commitments of over twenty billion dollars for the reestablishment of 'America's Wetland,' the rapidly declining salt marshes known as the Louisiana Bayous, also the recovery of the seriously degraded Chesapeake Bay Estuary and the extensive Florida Everglades, 'river of grass.' These are public works projects that could quickly generate 'shovel ready' jobs for unemployed workers while also protecting us from the worst impacts of climate change.

Saving our Carbon Blue habitats is just one practical way we can start taking climate action while also helping restore the living blue part of our blue marble planet. Like Rahm Emanuel says, 'No crisis should go to waste.'

David Helvarg

David Helvarg

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seagrass beds of Tomales Bay, California, a Carbon Sink

Seagrass beds (of Tomales Bay, CA) are "a carbon sink, removing or sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere."

Tomales Bay slips under scrutiny

Andrew DeFeo, 2009-12-23

Boat owners of the nearly 200 vessels scattered throughout Tomales Bay moor any way they like. Some use old engines and tractor tires. Almost none of the vessels have permits. That could change soon, if regulators finalize a vessel management plan—a series of regulations and advisory measures that would protect the biological diversity of the bay.

After 15 years of attempting to set up a comprehensive plan, associated regulatory agencies say it could take a few more years. It is a welcomed stall for boat owners who could be forced to buy costly permits and replace mooring devices. But environmentalists worry that an unregulated waterway may be destructive to the local habitats of thousands of animal species.
Bay bureaucracy

Thirteen local, state and federal regulatory bodies hold some authority over Tomales Bay, which the California Coastal Commission designated a Special Resource Area and the United Nations named a Wetland of International Significance. In 1994, the agencies convened to discuss plans for new regulations. The Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) published a report in 2007 that was a precursor to the Vessel Management Plan. Its goals included the protection of seagrass and a defined permitting process. It also assessed the safety and legality of current moorings.

According to the GFNMS report, all moorings placed in the bay, excluding commercial moorings, were illegal. “In the 90s, the GFNMS met with boat owners in an attempt to get regulations set, but nothing went through,” said Mark Bartolini, a founder of the Tomales Bay Boaters Association. “Boat owners have been able to come to some process over time but the agencies have been unable to do so. It’s sort of ironic that the organization came out and said that our moorings were illegal.”

During a 60-day public comment period after the release of the 2007 report, boat owners and coastal businesses spoke loud and clear. The GFNMS decided to set up a group of volunteer advisors. For over a year, a group of 13 local stakeholders, including representatives from Lawson’s Landing, Marshall Boat Works, the Environmental Action Committee and Sierra Club, have met to develop recommendations for GFNMS.

The work group had their last official meeting in April and is preparing a final document to present to another advisory committee, which will in turn make recommendations to GFNMS Superintendent Maria Brown. After the vessel management plan is drafted it will need to be reviewed by the 12 other regulatory agencies, and will be subject to either the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In short, it’s going to be a while.


The work group made recommendations on three primary issues: mooring options, water quality and the permitting process. They spent a lot of time debating how to protect eelgrass, a resource that biologists and environmentalists say is essential to life in and around the water.

Dominique Richard, an Inverness resident and work group leader, says most boats already avoid seal haul-outs and eelgrass, which tends to hug the shore. The GFNMS has already defined no-anchor zones, but a concern remains that many moorings, which include cement blocks and steel drums, may be damaging the ocean floor.

Seagrass beds act as buffer zones, preventing coastal erosion and trap sediments reducing excess nutrients and pollutants. The plant is a carbon sink, removing or sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. Eelgrass provides breeding and nursery grounds for herring, which attach their eggs directly to the blades, and provides habitat for migratory birds.

“Vessels anchoring in these sensitive habitats can result in anchor dragging, creating trenches and redirecting subtidal channels, eventually artificially changing the flow of the bay,” said Mary Jane Schramm, spokesperson for GFNMS. “Having a mooring plan helps vessel operators understand impacts and what options they have.”

As one option, the work group suggested further development of mooring fields. Areas off of Chicken Ranch Beach and Marconi Cove have historically been used as mooring fields—areas where multiple anchor sites are established. But these sites lack the fee structure and permit process that GFNMS would require.

With respect to the testing of newer, more expensive anchoring equipment, some work group members worry that a demand to install these devices could pose a cost too high for some boat owners. “It was asked of the advisory committee that reasonably priced alternatives are tested, because we don’t want to see boat owners fined or put out because they can’t afford to anchor their boats,” said Fred Smith, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee.

A month ago, a twin-engine boat from Bodega Bay Marine Lab matched its torque against the ocean floor in a series of mooring device tests in Tomales Bay. After ripping old and new anchors from the sea bottom, testers found that the traditional concrete block and chain device was adequate in keeping boats steadily floating—and even better in some cases—than their more expensive, technologically advanced counterparts. The committee is asking GFNMS to take this into account, and to review the safety of moorings case by case.

Most boats avoid eelgrass because they anchor in 20 or so feet of water to compensate for changing tides, while the grass generally doesn’t grow in more than eight feet of water. Right now, eelgrass is actually spreading in the bay, Smith said. Yet no one is sure if and how this growth pattern will change.

The group asked that the bay be a non-discharge zone, meaning that boats would no longer be allowed to dump any waste, even treated waste. They recommended setting up collection facilities or dump stations. A pump-out facility at Sacramento Landing or Marshall Boat was suggested, where boats could drop off waste that would later be removed, possibly by an inland sewer system. But such a system would be expensive, and Sacramento Landing would have to extend its pier.

“We have made recommendations, but the costs are another obstacle. The county will need to work with GFNMS and business owners if these projects are going to get started,” Richard said.

When GFNMS finally decides where a boat can rest, it will need to establish a permitting process. Currently, only one privately owned vessel has a permit from the State Land Commission. Sarah Allen, a science advisor for Point Reyes National Seashore, remembers the process of getting the permit taking over a year and involving plenty of paperwork. “I don’t think most people go through the permitting process because they aren’t aware of all the steps they need to take,” she said.

Although the state commission has jurisdiction over permits, other agencies, including the California Coastal Commission, the California Department of Boating and Waterways and National Park Service, also have jurisdiction. Though private homeowners have legal rights to set up a mooring or pier directly in front of their property, other boat owners do not have that luxury.

Boat owners will have to wait for an agency to take over the splintered system. “We would like to see moorings on the bay,” said Willy Vogler, co-owner of Lawson’s Landing. “And if that is going to happen, there needs to be oversight, and if there is going to be a permitting agency, we would like to see one.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lessons From the Copenhagen Climate Talks

A major 'positive outcome' from the Copenhagen talks was progress made on deforestation (point #3 in the follwoing article). This is basically the 'green carbon' solution, and can be seen as a important step in our appreciation of nature's role in countering climate change.

'Blue carbon' solutions represent a potential next step in our appreciation of nature's role and greatly benefit from progress on deforestation.

Please see this following article for a review of the Copenhagen talks.


Lessons From the Copenhagen Climate Talks

It was during the wee hours of Saturday morning when a delegate from Saudi Arabia, of all places, expressed what may have been the consensus view of the contentious final plenary session at the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen. "I am working without break for 48 hours now," he said. "I do not see, in the future, a situation where we can adopt a legally binding, given these [reactions to a compromise plan hammered out between President Obama and the leaders of the key developing nations]. This is without exception the worst plenary I have ever attended, including the management of the process, the timing, everything."

But although many will remember the Copenhagen climate summit as an unmitigated disaster, that's too simple an assessment. The event was nothing if not contentious. Outside the venue, stressed out Danish riot cops clashed with thousands of protestors demanding action by the world's governments. Inside, some of the poorer developing countries kept the proceedings frozen with procedural objection after procedural objection, while major economies like the U.S. and China brought little new to the summit and barely budged from their negotiation positions. In the end, all that was produced was an interim accord barely worth the name. It was bitterly attacked by many environmentalists, and even its chief architect, President Barack Obama, admitted the pact was "not enough" and that "we have a long way to go." (See the top 10 green ideas of 2009.)

For all its limitations, however, the Copenhagen Accord is the first real step to fighting climate change in the 21st century. The real value of Copenhagen of the summit may lie in what it teaches us about dealing with climate change — and much more. Here are five lessons of the summit:

1. George W. Bush was right, sort of. After ignoring climate change for much of his tenure, Bush in late 2007 called a Washington meeting of the major economies — hoping to make headway on combatting global warming by focusing on the handful of countries, developed and developing, that produce the vast majority of carbon emissions. Environmentalists, unsurprisingly, lambasted the idea, assuming it was a ploy to undercut the U.N. system. The meeting came and went with little impact.

But last Friday morning, after two weeks of fruitless negotiations among most of U.N. member states, President Obama arrived in Copenhagen to find the summit on the verge of collapse. So, he plunged into seven hours of hard, direct bargaining with a select group of world leaders, eventually cutting a deal with those from China, India, Brazil and South Africa — the world's largest and most important emerging economies, and the leading country in Africa, the continent that will suffer most from climate change. Their agreement was presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to the other 180 plus nations. While Copenhagen won't end the U.N. process for addressing climate change, but it marks a shift to decision making by smaller groups of powerful nations working in more manageable numbers. As undemocratic as that may be, Copenhagen showed that it may also be the only way to get something done. (Read Obama's remarks in full.)

2.China will be decisive. When Obama landed in Copenhagen, to key leader with whom he needed to huddle was China's Premier Wen Jiaobao. But Wen played hard to get, twice sending a lower-level official to meet with Obama and other world leaders. Washington and Beijing clashed throughout the summit over the issue of transparency: whether developing countries would expose their domestic climate actions to international review.

But the real battle was to persuade China, now the world's largest emitter of carbon gases, to relinquish its outdated developing-nation status under the Kyoto Protocol, and commit to targets more in line with its status as a leading industrial power. China is investing hundreds of billions in clean energy, and brought to Copenhagen pledges to improve energy efficiency. Yet, Beijing remained largely passive at Copenhagen, resistant to throwing in its lot with an international system and reluctant to use its growing power to influence the talks in a positive way. Although it looks set to become the world's second largest economy by the end of the year, it is also home to hundreds of millions of poor people — hence the developing-nation mindset. But unless China can be coaxed to play a leadership role in any future concerted global action on climate change, there simply won't be any. (See pictures of the world's most polluted places.)

3. We can agree to save the forests. Although no smart observer expected a Copenhagen accord to include legally binding emission-reduction targets, the final accord omitted even the long-term emissions goals included in earlier drafts. Expect a renewal of the same debates a year from now at the next U.N. climate summit in Mexico City. But Copenhagen's bright spot was progress on slowing deforestation. The logging and burning of tropical rainforests accounts for around 15% of global carbon emissions, and eliminates important carbon sinks such as the Amazon. A plan excluded from Kyoto — titled Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) — under which wealthier nations pay rainforest countries for preserving their trees made a comeback at Copenhagen. Stopping deforestation is a cheap way to slow carbon emissions and protects the most important wildlife habitat on the planet.

The Copenhagen negotiations on REDD made real progress, signaling that both the developed and developing nations want it to succeed. Although the lack of a more ambitious wider agreement limited the progress that could be made on REDD, the Copenhagen Accord does include a mention of it — which raises the hope that forests are at least one thing that governments may find a way to save.

4.Green schism. The Environmental Defense Fund — a U.S. green group that often works with business — praised the Copenhagen Accord as an "important step," and other mainstream environmental groups had a similarly measured response. But the new group — which demands extremely sharp and immediate carbon reductions — denounced the deal and protests outside the venue began almost immediately.

The differing response among environmentalists suggests that Copenhagen may produce splits similar to those among liberal Democrats over how to respond to compromises over health-care reform in the U.S. While most greens remain firmly in Obama's corner even if they're far from satisfied, we can expect an escalation of civil skirmishes within a movement that's generally been a happy family.

5. It's going to get harder, and that's a good thing. In the weeks preceding the summit, world leaders had downgraded expectations for a binding agreement, aiming instead for a broad political agreement while kicking tough decisions such as emission targets down the road. Logically, that should have made the talks at Copenhagen easier. Obviously that's not what happened, as the summit's final 48 hours were passed on the brink of collapse. But if Copenhagen was tough, Mexico City will be a lot more so, because there, countries will be tasked with filling in details sketched in the Copenhagen Accord.

Yet the very struggle to reach agreement at Copenhagen, and the tougher talks to come, demonstrate that climate diplomacy has finally come of age. The negotiations at Copenhagen were so contentious because of the very real impact the proposals on the table will have, not only on the environment, but also on national economies. China and the U.S. played hardball — and sent heads of government to do the talking — precisely because they had something to lose. The onset of a kind of climate realpolitik, which eschews hot air for real action, signals is a sign that global climate talks have moved beyond symbolic rhetoric.

Copenhagen also signaled a profound change in the U.S. role. During the plenary of the previous U.N. climate summit in Bali two years ago, Kevin Conrad, the delegate from the small rainforest nation of Papua New Guinea, electrified the room when he told the recalcitrant U.S. delegation: "We seek your leadership, but if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way." At the very least, Copenhagen shows the U.S. is willing to lead. The question is for how long, and who will follow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE: Coastal Carbon Sinks in Dire Need of Protection

Source: Inter Press Service
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

By Stephen Leahy* - IPS/TerraViva

) - What would it be like if the air we breathe was 30 percent more acidic? The oceans are already 30 percent more acidic, and on their way to becoming 120 percent more acidic in 50 years at the current rates of carbon dioxide emissions. Acidification is already affecting coral reefs, algae and plankton, the base of many marine food chains, according to a new report released here by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"In the last 10 years, the growth of coral reefs in many areas has declined 15 percent," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the IUCN's Global Marine Programme.

"That's a dramatic shift," Lundin told TerraViva.

The oceans absorb some carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, but the vast quantity being emitted - mainly from the burning of fossil fuels - has altered basic ocean chemistry, turning it sour. That's also affecting shell-forming plankton and disrupting the growth rates of other species, Lundin said.

The stated goal of many countries to stabilise global temperatures within an increase of no more than 2.0 degrees C. is still "a death sentence for most coral reefs", he said. The 2.0 C. target implies a level of CO2 in the atmosphere of 450 parts per million (ppm), well up from the historical average of 280 ppm.

The acid death march has already begun in the Arctic. Research carried out this summer in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard shows that in many regions around the North Pole, seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. This will dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish, researchers wrote in the Nov. 20 edition of Science.

Shellfish are eaten by baleen whales, salmon, herring and various seabirds, and their disappearance would have a major impact on the entire marine food chain. Cold waters are at far greater risk for acidification because they absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere than warmer tropical waters.

Unknown to most is the abundance of cold-water coral species in the icy regions of the planet. "There are far more Arctic coral species than tropical, they just don't form the same kind of reef structures," explained Lundin.

By 2100, the entire Arctic may well be too acidic for most species, researchers wrote. The only one way to stop the relentless acidification of the oceans is to urgently limit CO2 emissions, Lundin said. "This is not debatable. It is basic chemistry," he stressed. Lundin also warned there is also a time lag involved. Even if all carbon emissions halted today, oceans will grow more acidic and it will take hundreds of years before they return to their pre-industrial norm.

"We also must reduce fishing pressure, pollution and other impacts on the oceans to help them retain some resilience to withstand what's coming," he said.

Meanwhile, IUCN researchers have now documented that coastal marine habitats like mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows may store 50 times the amount of carbon that tropical forests do on a per hectare basis.

"Seagrass meadows may well be more effective in sequestering carbon than forests," Lundin said.

However, two-thirds of seagrass meadows near inhabited areas have already been lost due to pollution and siltation. "Investments in protecting coastal ecosystems might be a very cost-effective way to sequester carbon," he said.

Countries are largely unaware of this fact and marine habitats are not part of any international or national climate accounting systems. The IUCN believes it is urgent that the marine equivalent of a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme be created to safeguard these coastal carbon sinks.

"Future generations will judge us harshly if we don't act urgently," Lundin said. "They will understand that we did not have to make any large adjustments and that there were lots of practical things we could do right now."

"This is a global problem. We can't resolve this with individual actions or countries," he emphasised.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sailors for the Sea Collaborates on Ocean Health

Sailors for the Sea Collaborates with Ocean Conservation Groups to Help Raise Awareness of Ocean Health; Participates in Sign-on Letter Organized by Blue Climate Solutions

Purpose of letter addressed to President Obama is to garner support for marine conservation solutions and marine science research

Newport, Rhode Island - November 30, 2009 - Sailors for the Sea, the only ocean conservation group focused on the sailing and boating community, earlier this month joined forces with Blue Climate Solutions, a project of The Ocean Foundation, in an effort to promote marine conservation through a sign-on letter campaign.

The letter advocates for carbon offsets for marine conservation efforts and offers sound suggestions that the U.S. government support:

  • The option for marine conservation solutions to climate change [to be considered] in national climate change legislation and international climate change treaties
  • Marine science research that further explores natural ocean carbon solutions

Co-founder of Sailors for the Sea and advisor to The Ocean Foundation, David Rockefeller, Jr. explaining his support for the letter says, "As scientists continue to study the causes of excess carbon, it is clear that our oceans are as much the victim of CO2 as our lakes were the victim of acid rain. What is not in doubt is that human ingenuity can respond in ways that mitigate the negative impacts of excess carbon while we strive to reduce our own substantial contributions of CO2 into the air and waters of our planet."

Drafted by the Blue Climate Solutions, the sign-on letter is a collaboration among various ocean and marine health and conservation groups aimed at raising awareness of the fragility of the world's oceans and the need for effective solutions and marine science research to mitigate additional future negative impact on the oceans.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, a well-respected oceanographer and conservationist, endorsed the effort as the first scientist to sign-on. In addition to securing Dr. Earle's support, the campaign references the UNEP's Blue Carbon Report (October, 2009) which illustrates the carbon capturing potential of coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangroves, swamps, seagrass beds and salt marshes (available at:

Carbon offsets are a major feature in climate change legislation pending in Congress and expected to produce the world's largest single carbon market (worth an estimated $10B/year), the potential to advance marine conservation is enormous. These offsets are currently targeted for forestry conservation projects. The sign-on campaign supporters strongly believe that given the critical role oceans and coastal ecosystems play in the global carbon cycle, directing some of those funds toward marine conservation will have dramatic impact on effecting change - for the better.

Additional supporting materials are available:

Blue Carbon Report (UNEP)

Carbon Offsets: The Next Multibillion-dollar Energy Industry:

Tropical Forest Conservation in Waxman-Markey

About Sailors for the Sea

Founded in 2004, Sailors for the Sea is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and coastal waters. For more information on or to participate in any of the Sailors for the Sea programs, or to become a member and support the organization, visit

Saturday, November 21, 2009

‘Blue Climate Coalition’ Pushes Marine Conservation Angle

gilles_marini_shirtless_sexy-dad-dancing-with-the stars-brothers & Sisters-satcA large international coalition has urged the United States to support ocean conservation in an effort to help mitigate climate change.

The ‘Blue Climate Coalition,’ comprised of sixty-six conservation groups and interests and over 150 marine scientists and professionals, from 33 countries, sent communications addressed to President Obama and the United States Senate.

The letters request the option for marine conservation solutions to climate change to be considered in national climate change legislation and international climate change treaties, and support for marine science research that further explores this concept.

It appears that Gilles Marini, from Dancing With the Stars (and the full frontal shower scene in the Sex and the City movie, ahem), also signed the letters as a supporter of healthy oceans.

Philippe, Jr., and Alexandra Cousteau, grandchildren of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, signed-on, representing their respective conservation organizations EarthEcho International and Blue Legacy International.

A wide range of interests were represented in the coalition letters: environmental conservation, climate change education and advocacy, ecosystem restoration, the dive industry, ecotourism and sustainable travel, carbon offsetting, fishing, and scientific research.

And, for the record, in my selection of image, I took it upon myself to ensure representation for those interested in photos of shirtless men. I hope that it will also somewhat offset the image in the post below.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthy Oceans Can Help Save Us From Climate Change

Healthy Oceans Can Help Save Us From Climate Change

International coalition advances marine conservation as part of the solution to climate change

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A large international coalition today urged the United States to support marine conservation options that will help mitigate climate change.

The 'Blue Climate Coalition,' comprised of sixty-six conservation groups and interests and over 150 marine scientists and professionals, from 33 countries, issued communications today addressed to President Obama and the United States Senate.

Together, the coalition letters request the option for marine conservation solutions to climate change to be considered in national climate change legislation and international climate change treaties, and support for marine science research that further explores this concept.

Eminent oceanographer and conservationist, Dr. Sylvia Earle, endorsed the letters as the first scientist to sign-on. In her latest book, 'The World Is Blue,' Earle reveals how dangerous oceanic change threatens the very existence of life on Earth and argues for renewable strategies that safeguard the natural systems that sustain us.

News of the coalition's effort made its way to Hollywood, and to the notice of Gilles Marini, most recently of 'Sex and the City' and 'Dancing With the Stars.' Gilles signed the letters as a supporter of healthy oceans.

Philippe, Jr., and Alexandra Cousteau, grandchildren of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, signed-on, representing their respective conservation organizations EchoEarth International and Blue Legacy International.

A wide range of interests were represented in the coalition letters: environmental conservation, climate change education and advocacy, ecosystem restoration, the dive industry, ecotourism and sustainable travel, carbon offsetting, fishing, and scientific research.

Scientific Backing

The coalition's message is supported by reports released recently by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). UNEP's 'Blue Carbon' report highlights the carbon storage potential of coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and saltwater marsh lands.

The UNEP report found that the restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems and a reduction in the clearcutting of tropical forests could mitigate anthropogenic carbon emissions by up to 25%.

The IUCN report, titled 'The Ocean and Climate Change,' finds that failure to recognize the ocean in climate change discussions will have profound consequences for humanity. The report also recommends for additional research to quantify the carbon value of ocean ecosystems. This recommendation is echoed in the coalition letters, to ensure full scientific backing any future natural ocean carbon policies.

"Utilizing the natural carbon functions of both the green and blue biospheres of our planet is an option that we simply cannot afford to ignore if we are serious about tackling climate change and making the transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy," said Mark J. Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation and signatory to the coalition letters.

The Urgency of Action

"The United States will play a crucial role in next month's climate change discussions in Copenhagen," said Steven J. Lutz, Executive Director of Blue Climate Solutions, the group that organized the letters. "We are asking the United States to show global leadership by advancing solutions for climate change that involve coastal and marine conservation. Many U.S. federal and state agencies are already pursuing actions that could be considered climate mitigation, such as the restoration of coastal and estuarine habitats. These actions need to be continued and encouraged."

Recognizing the carbon value of healthy coastal and marine ecosystems may be significant for achieving consensus at the Copenhagen negotiations. The health of coastal ocean ecosystems is a critical issue for many developing countries, especially small island developing states. The need to restore the ocean's natural carbon function could help direct billions of dollars towards conservation efforts, while simultaneously supporting local economies and countering the threat of climate change throughout the globe.

Economic stimulus associated with restoring the ocean's natural carbon function include funding and investment for activities such as improving water quality, ecosystem restoration, coastal surveying, and the innovation of new environmental monitoring and restoration technologies.

"Restoring the ocean's natural ocean carbon function is proposed as an alternative to potentially harmful ocean geo-engineering schemes recently discussed in Congress," said Lutz. "Restoration activities that naturally fix carbon in to forms other than dissolved carbon will also not increase ocean acidification."

Environmental co-benefits associated with natural ocean carbon solutions include renewed and sustainable fisheries, the conservation of endangered marine species and birds, and the restoration of certain coastal ecosystems. Mangrove forests are considered essential habitat for many fish species, and healthy seagrass meadows are indispensable for endangered sea turtles and manatees.

"Sea turtle hatchlings need healthy coastal and marine ecosystems in order to survive," said Lutz. "It just so happens that we also need the same healthy ocean ecosystems to survive on this blue planet."

SOURCE Blue Climate Solutions

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blue Climate Solutions: Promoting Marine Conservation,+10+34N,+057+45W


From Ocean Watch Crew Log 122 - At Sea, 10 34N, 057 45W

Weekend Update (Part One) by McCormick and Schrader Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blue Climate Solutions: Promoting Marine Conservation

Prior to arriving in San Juan, during our stop in Miami Ocean Watch was part of an open house organized by our port host, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. Among the folks we met there was Steven Lutz of a group called Blue Climate Solutions, A Project of The Ocean Foundation.

Last week, the crew of Ocean Watch joined our colleagues at Sailors for the Sea and forty-eight other organization as signatories in letters from Blue Climate Solutions to President Obama and the U.S. Senate to garner support for: 1) the option for marine conservation solutions to climate change to be considered in national climate change legislation and international climate change treaties and 2) marine science research that further explores natural ocean carbon solutions.

In a letter to the boat last week, Steven wrote:
"I am pleased to inform you that eminent oceanographer and conservationist, Dr. Silvia Earle, has endorsed this effort as the first scientist to sign on.

"You may be aware that UNEP released its Blue Carbon report last month, which illustrates the carbon capturing potential of coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangrove swamps, seagrass beds and salt marshes (available at

"As carbon offsets are a major feature in climate change legislation pending in Congress, and expected to produce the world's largest single carbon market (worth an estimated $10 billion per year), the potential to advance marine conservation is fantastic. These offset areas currently targeted for forestry conservation projects. Given the critical role our oceans and coastal ecosystems play in the global carbon cycle, why not some of those $$$ for marine conservation efforts?

"Please note that the word ‘natural' is highlighted in the letters to differentiate this option from geo-engineering. Additionally, natural solutions which store or sequester carbon in forms other than dissolved will NOT enhance ocean acidification (ocean acidification occurs when carbon remains free in its dissolved forms in the water)."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don’t shun the ocean – IUCN tells climate leaders

Failure to recognize the ocean in climate change discussions will have profound consequences for humanity, according to IUCN.

A month before world leaders meet in Copenhagen to strike a climate deal, IUCN releases The Ocean and Climate Change – Tools and Guidelines for Action, to help decision-makers understand the importance of the ocean in the global climate debate – and the cost of not taking action. The report provides a comprehensive view of the mitigation and adaptation strategies available, as well as a clear set of action recommendations.

“Maintaining biodiversity and restoring degraded ecosystems are cost-effective strategies for disaster risk reduction and will help poor communities adapt to climate change while ensuring the continued provision of vital services,” says Dorothée Herr, lead author of the report and IUCN’s Global Marine Program Officer.

The ocean is the earth’s most significant global heat buffer, and absorbs up to one third of the CO2 released by human activities. The ocean covers over seventy percent of our planet’s surface yet much less than one percent of the ocean is effectively protected. Marine ecosystems such as salt marshes, coral reefs and mangroves are among the most vulnerable to climate change, with millions of people relying on them for food, protection, tourism and development.

The report urges global leaders to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and to set reduction targets based on the latest science on ocean acidification and marine ecosystems. The report welcomes the development of sustainable marine renewable energy sources and promotes the use of coastal ecosystems as natural carbon sinks. The report however also carries an important warning to world leaders:

“We should explore all possible ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN Global Marine Programme. “But proposed actions such as ocean fertilization to increase carbon capture and storage need to be approached with caution as the possible impacts on the atmosphere and marine biodiversity may be severe and have not been fully evaluated.”

Notes to Editors

To read the full report visit:

Executive Summary:

Downloadable images are available and all credits should go to © Octavio Aburto.

Please note these photos may only be reproduced in connection with a story on this press release:

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

• Taffeta Gray, IUCN Marine Communications Officer, t +1 202 330 3615, e

• Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations, t+ 41 22 9990115, e


• Tom Laughlin, Deputy Head IUCN Global Marine Programme e

• Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head, IUCN Global Marine Programme, e

The two main authors of the report were:

Dorothée Herr, IUCN’s Global Marine Program Officer

Grant Galland, co-author of the report and Ph.D. student with Scripps Institution of Oceanography

About IUCN

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges.

IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blue Carbon – The Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon

Oceans play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Not only do they represent the largest long-term sink for carbon but they also store and redistribute CO2. Some 93% of the earth’s CO2 (40 Tt) is stored and cycled through the oceans.

Blue CarbonThe ocean’s vegetated habitats, in particular mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses, cover <0.5%>

The rate of loss of these marine ecosystems is much higher than any other ecosystem on the planet – in some instances up to four times that of rainforests. Currently, on average, between 2–7% of our blue carbon sinks are lost annually, a seven-fold increase compared to only half a century ago. If more action is not taken to sustain these vital ecosystems, most may be lost within two decades. Halting degradation and restoring both the lost marine carbon sinks in the oceans and slowing deforestation of the tropical forests on land could result in mitigating emissions by up to 25%.

Sustaining blue carbon sinks will be crucial for ecosystem-based adaptation strategies that reduce vulnerability of human coastal communities to climate change. Halting the decline of ocean and coastal ecosystems would also generate economic revenue, food security and improve livelihoods in the coastal zone. It would also provide major economic and development opportunities for coastal communities around the world…

“Out of all the biological carbon captured in the world, over half is captured by marine living organisms hence it is called blue carbon.”

“The objective of this report is to highlight the critical role of the oceans and ocean ecosystems in maintaining our climate and in assisting policy makers to mainstream an oceans agenda into national and international climate change initiatives.”

Read/download the entire report here:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Move to restore mangrove forests (& store carbon)

Mangrove forests "have a high storage capacity for carbon, which helps to regulate the quantity of carbon dioxide in the environment.

They function like carbon factories by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert­ing them into organic material.

The organic materials are then absorbed into trees, mudflats and nearby waterways, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases."


Tuesday November 3, 2009

Story and photos by SALINA KHALID

YEARS ago, the whole of the Pulau Indah coastal area off Klang, was covered with mangrove trees. Now, only about 20% of the trees remain.

“This island used to be covered with 2,000ha to 3,000ha of mangrove forest but now only a small portion of it is left.

“Part of the area, which used to be a forest reserve had been degazetted a few years ago, allowing development but at the cost of these mangroves.

Old and new: A combination of natural restoration and manual planting will yield faster results for mangrove restoration in the area.

“Even areas that were not supposed to be affected suffered damage,” said Global Environment Centre (GEC) director Faizal Parish.

The trees were chopped to make way for development which also involved land clearing to provide access to the site.

Water flow into the mangrove forest was also interrupted due to the creation of an access road and this contributed to the damage.

“Some of the areas are recovering naturally, in others, the damage is still visible,” added Faizal.

In efforts to restore the mangroves, GEC together with the Selangor Forestry Department have started replanting activities in the area.

The first activity was launched on Saturday with about 1,500 bakau kurap (Rhizophora mucronata) saplings planted in the eastern tip of the island.

About 300 people, including the local community and students from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tengku Ampuan Jemaah, Sekolah Menengah Datuk Hamzah, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pandamaran Jaya and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Perempuan Raja Zarina, took part in the exercise.

Starting early: Khairul Nizam Shaiful Bahari, nine, and Norhan Adli Haziq Hasbullah, 10, learning how to plant the mangrove tree during the tree-planting activity on Saturday

In addition to creating awareness on the importance of preserving the mangroves and its eco-system, the programme also hoped to instil a sense of ownership among the participants.

Despite the early morning drizzle, the participants got into the mudflats for the tree-planting.

“We want them to know how difficult it is to plant this tree and as such should not be chopped down easily.

“It is a living thing and they have to realise that there is a possibility that it might not survive,” said Faizal.

He hoped that the participants, especially the students, would come back to visit the trees that they had planted and help ensure their survival.

Faizal said they had chosen the site after finding it suitable for restoration.

He said although the area was damaged due to the nearby development, it had high potential for restoration.

“The water flow has improved and this will help the trees to survive. In some areas, we can see new trees, indicating that the area is recovering naturally.

“So these sapplings that we are planting will complement those that are growing naturally,” he said.

However, Faizal said it would take between three and four years for the restoration efforts to show results.

Mangroves are tropical trees and shrubs growing on sheltered coastlines, mudflats and riverbanks. They cover some 14 million hectares worldwide and are concentrated within 25 degrees North and South of the Equator.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, in 2007, about one third of the world’s mangroves were found in Asia (39%) followed by Africa (21%) and North and Central America (15%).

Hardy plant: The mangrove trees can survive harsh conditions.

Mangrove forests in Selangor are found mainly along the coastline of the Sabak Bernam, Kuala Selangor, Klang, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

Almost 72% of mangrove forest reserves in Selangor are located in the Klang district. They are the Kapar mangrove forest, Klang mangroves, Teluk Gedong and Jugra Blok 1.

In Selangor, mangroves cover 18,088ha with 5,612ha of it in the islands off Klang and 2,365ha in Pulau Ketam.

Both Pulau Tengah and Pulau Che Mat Zin each have about 1,400ha of mangrove forest.

The Klang islands (a group of islands) are mangrove islands in the estuary of the Sg Kelang with mudflats and sandflats. Klang islands are of national importance because these are excellent examples of an estuarine mangrove mudflat system.

The islands are also the most important site for migratory shorebirds and fish-breeding ground which support coastal fishery activities.

Recently, the Selangor government announced that they will no longer be issuing permits for logging on government land, effective from next year.

This also covers logging activities for all inland and the mangrove forests in the state.

“As the most developed and highly populated state, mangroves in Selangor have faced tremendous pressure from land development and pollution.

“It is estimated that from 1980 to 1998, almost 47% of the original mangrove forest reserve in Selangor has been lost to aquaculture, housing and industrial development,” said Faizal.

Despite the salinity and water levels that can change daily, mangroves, adapt well to cope in this environment and thrive.

With roots clustered together to form a natural barrier to break the strong waves from hitting the shore, these mangroves also house various species of marine life, making them a haven for both fishermen and shore birds.

Destroying the mangrove forests will significantly reduce these marine life such as prawns and mud- crabs and would affect the livelihood of mangrove fishermen.

Mangroves have one of the most unique reproductive strategies in the plant world. It disperses its cigar-shaped propagules (seed) via water.

All the sapplings for the replanting programme came from the Forestry Department’s own nursery in Klang.

The department’s deputy director for silviculture and forest protection, Samsu Anuar Nawi, said the mangrove sapplings were kept at the nursery for about four months before being planted.

He said the bakau kurap (Rhizophora mucronata) was chosen for the programme because these have a higher market value and are commonly used for construction and to make charcoal.

The species is used for piling at construction sites.

“We are concentrating on government land due to the damage done from the development surrounding the mangrove areas.

“Previously we carried out several activities in Sabak Bernam and this is the first time we are carrying it out in Pulau Indah,” he said.

The replanting programme is part of efforts to restore the rich bio-diversity of the forests to provide an ecosystem for fish, crabs, birds and other creatures and plants.

Studies have also shown that the mangroves could protect coastal areas from rising tides, storms and natural erosion.

The trees have a high storage capacity for carbon, which helps to regulate the quantity of carbon dioxide in the environment.

They function like carbon factories by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert­ing them into organic material.

The organic materials are then absorbed into trees, mudflats and nearby waterways, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases.

Harvesting mangroves is allowed in the country, with the logging permit issued by the relevant state Forestry Department.

According to the Malaysian Nature Society, only 1.8% of Malaysia’s land is covered in mangroves, with over 50% of these mangroves lost between 1950 and 1985.

Forestry Department statistics show that Peninsular Malaysia had 85,000ha of mangrove swamp forest in 2003, down from 86,497ha in 2002.

The Selangor Forestry Depart­ment statistics show that last year, 18,088ha of the coastal area in the state was covered with mangrove forest.

Under Section 15 of the National Forestry Act, 1984 (Amendment 1993) those who conduct illegal logging can be fined up to a maximum of RM500,000 and mandatory imprisonment of one to 20 years.

Meanwhile, those who are caught having this wood without the documentation can be fined up to RM50,000.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sperm Whales Act as Carbon Sink

New estimates suggest sperm whales' feeding habits help take in carbon.

Sperm whales in the Southern Ocean deserve credit for their fine work pumping iron for climate change, researchers say.

These whales have been falsely accused of breathing out enough carbon dioxide to contribute to the greenhouse gas build-up causing climate change, says Trish J. Lavery of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Of course the whales breathe, but earlier calculations overlooked the potential for whales to offset their emissions by introducing extra iron into the upper zone of water, Lavery said October 13 at the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in Quebec City, Canada. The extra iron that whales bring up from their deep feeding encourages plankton growth. That growth traps carbon, much as human-run iron-enrichment experiments in the ocean might, Lavery and her colleagues contend.

According to the team's calculations, sperm whales in the Southern Ocean should rank as carbon neutral at least. The animals may even be capturing a net 5 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year, Lavery says.

Some 210,000 of the world's sperm whales swim around the Southern Ocean during a year, Lavery says. Whale numbers inspire a lot of debate, so she averaged results of several estimates.

The first analysis of whales' effect on greenhouse gases determined that warm-blooded residents -- with whales as the dominant force -- might be respiring 25 percent of the carbon fixed in the Southern Ocean, she says. Later estimates have revised their share downward, and the most recent calculation puts their contribution at 0.3 percent. That's not huge compared to global output, but it's still 17 million tons of carbon a year.

Sperm whales, however, feed by diving for squid in the cold depths of the Southern Ocean. This zone normally acts as deep storage for nutrients, Lavery says. So anything the whales bring up effectively introduces something new to the upper waters.

Skimpy levels of iron in the Southern Ocean limit growth of the floating meadows of plankton there, Lavery says. This limitation has inspired human experiments in adding iron to trigger a big plankton bloom. A burst of iron-fed organisms would draw in carbon dioxide and then trap some of it as a portion of the bloom dies and sinks into deep cold storage.

Using numbers from studies of feeding and nutrition, Lavery and her colleagues calculate that each whale brings up about 10 grams of iron a day from the depths and then defecates it at the surface. The beauty of this sperm whale output is that it takes the form of drifting liquid plumes that can feed life in the upper ocean, Lavery says. She notes that experiments with iron have struggled with iron fertilizers that clump and sink before upper-water plankton can eat all of the goodies. Yet, she says, those experiments document measurable carbon trapping with even less iron fertilizer than sperm whales contribute.

Lavery points out that her calculations can show sperm whales as either a net carbon sink or as carbon-neutral depending on which numbers go into the model. Finding the exact values will take more research, she says, but she wants to call attention to an overlooked mechanism.

Asked if he's ready to believe sperm whales could be carbon neutral, Ari Friedlaender of the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C. says, "Of course!"

He adds that is he is now thinking about the flip side of whales and climate change: what impact climate change will have on them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Proposal: Carbon funding to protect oceans

Marine organisms take up between three and seven percent of the world’s carbon emissions. Thus, projects to protect this "blue carbon" capacity should rank on a par with forest conservation, UN body suggests.

Morten Andersen 16/10/2009 13:15

Projects that protect and enhance the ability of marine ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide should be allowed to receive carbon credits just like projects to conserve rainforests. The proposal stems from a new report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

While rainforests are generally accepted as huge sinks for carbon, it is less known that projects to restore marine ecosystems may provide considerable climate protection – more than half that projected from reducing rainforest deforestation, the report points out.

"It’s a resource that can help us achieve the goals and targets governments are negotiating at the moment (…) it’s a relatively simple and cheap proposition to invest in managing these areas," Emily Corcoran, one of the report’s authors, tells Business Day.

According to the report, between two and seven percent of the oceans’ capacity for carbon storage is lost yearly, mainly due to pollution and clearance of mangroves to make way for ports and other types of coastal development.

"We already know that marine ecosystems are trillion-dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, coastal defence, fisheries and water purification services. Now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change," Achim Steiner, head of the UNEP, tells Reuters.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seagrass Recovery joins the United Nations in calling attention to the need to restore critical Seagrass habitats in the World's oceans

Today, Seagrass Recovery joins the United Nations in calling attention to the need to restore critical Seagrass habitats in the coastal zone of the World's oceans while creating jobs, reversing the decline of the fisheries and combating climate change.

TAMPA, FL - October 15, 2009 - A report released October 14, 2009 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stresses the importance of urgent action to maintain and restore marine ecosystems such as seagrass, mangroves and salt marshes (blue carbon sinks) as the key to combating climate change. With the announcement, a call to action is being made for the restoration of the world's blue forests and blue carbon sinks to combat climate change and sea level rise. Florida based Seagrass Recovery has been successfully restoring seagrass meadows since 1996 and stands ready to meet this expected increase in the need for restoration of this important resource.

The report, “Blue Carbon: The Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon” was produced by three United Nations agencies and leading scientists. It found the ocean’s vegetative habitats (seagrass, mangroves and salt marshes) cover less than 1% of the seabed and equal less than .05% of the biomass on land but store a comparable amount of carbon per year, ranking them among the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet, and unlike carbon that may be locked away for decades or centuries on land, blue carbon stored in the oceans remain for millennia.
Unfortunately, over 30% of seagrass meadows have been lost since the 1940s and the rate is accelerating according to the report, sponsored by UNEP, the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. Seven percent of these “blue carbon sinks” are being lost annually – seven times the rate of loss of 50 years ago.

According to the report, “If more action is not taken to sustain these vital ecosystems, most may be lost within two decades”, thus the loss of all of the benefits these habitats provide, not just in battling climate change.

The report’s findings detail that the key element to combating climate change is the restoration of degraded seagrass meadows. Seagrass Recovery has spent the last 14 years developing innovative techniques and patented technologies to replant and restore damaged seagrass areas. The success of these methods have been scientifically evaluated and documented by National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Jeff Beggins, President and CEO of Seagrass Recovery stated that, "We applaud this exciting realization that restoration projects focused on Seagrass habitats in our coastal zone no longer should happen, but must happen. Seagrass Recovery recognizes that through creating jobs in our coastal communities and restoring these valuable blue carbon sinks, we look forward to playing a significant role in the reversal of the issues facing our planet as we combat climate change and sea level rise while making our coastline more resilient."

It is understood that Seagrasses provide countless benefits to our planet such as being the nursery of the ocean, providing habitat and sustenance for 70% of marine life, its direct correlation to water quality and providing protection for inshore coral reef ecosystems as well as the protection of our coastlines from coastal erosion. With the additional value add of these ecosystems being presented by this research in the fight against climate change and sea level rise, Seagrass and other coastal habitats will certainly benefit from the increased attention and awareness of the newly published finding with regards to the ocean's role in permanently sequestering carbon. This opportunity may create the ability to fund large scale restoration projects in the coastal zone focused on seagrasses, salt marshes and mangroves for the value these ecosystems present in worldwide carbon trading markets.

In Florida alone, according to information published by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in 1995, over 175,000 acres of prop scarring exist in the seagrass meadows found in the coastal waters of Florida. Information such as this provides a real world example of the degradation mentioned by the UN and the opportunities it presents to the Global economy. For example, a simple restoration of 100 acres will put over 1,000 coastal residents to work. Through the implementation of successful restoration techniques, such as Seagrass Recovery’s sediment tubes, to restore seagrass injuries sites, we can respond to this call to immediate action presented by this UN report to focus restoration opportunities on reversing the losses of these critical habitats through the restoration of the degraded habitats as well as the creation of new ecosystems.

"In these challenging economic times, we have the ability to place literally thousands of job seekers to work in long term sustainable careers while ensuring the future health of coastal habitats for a multitude of reasons, this report is very exciting." says Beggins.

The full report, “Blue Carbon: the Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon” can be accessed at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Healthy Oceans New Key to Combating Climate Change

Seagrasses to Salt Marshes Among the Most Cost Effective Carbon Capture and Storage Systems on the Planet

But Urgent Action Needed to Maintain and Restore 'Blue Carbon' Sinks Warns Three UN Agencies

Cape Town, Nairobi, Rome, Paris, 14 October 2009 - A 'Blue Carbon' fund able to invest in the maintenance and rehabilitation of key marine ecosystems should be considered by governments keen to combat climate change.

A new Rapid Response Report released today estimates that carbon emissions-equal to half the annual emissions of the global transport sector-are being captured and stored by marine ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses.

A combination of reducing deforestation on land, allied to restoring the coverage and health of these marine ecosystems could deliver up to 25% of the emissions reductions needed to avoid 'dangerous' climate change.

But the report, produced by three United Nations agencies and leading scientists and launched during National Marine Month in South Africa, warns that far from maintaining and enhancing these natural carbon sinks humanity is damaging and degrading them at an accelerating rate.

It estimates that up to seven percent of these 'blue carbon sinks' are being lost annually, or seven times the rate of loss of 50 years ago.

"If more action is not taken to sustain these vital ecosystems, most may be lost within two decades," says the report Blue Carbon: the Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon launched by the United Nations Environment Programe (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "We already know that marine ecosystems are multi-trillion dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, coastal defense, fisheries and water purification services-now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change."

Marine plant life holds the secret to preventing global warming

A seagrass bed

Mangrove forests, salt marshes and seagrass beds, above, cover less than 1 per cent of the world's seabed, but lock away well over half of all carbon to be buried in the ocean floor

Life in the ocean has the potential to help to prevent global warming, according to a report published today.

Marine plant life sucks 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, but most of the plankton responsible never reaches the seabed to become a permanent carbon store.

Mangrove forests, salt marshes and seagrass beds are a different matter. Although together they cover less than 1 per cent of the world’s seabed, they lock away well over half of all carbon to be buried in the ocean floor. They are estimated to store 1,650 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year — nearly half of global transport emissions — making them one of the most intense carbon sinks on Earth.

Their capacity to absorb the emissions is under threat, however: the habitats are being lost at a rate of up to 7 per cent a year, up to 15 times faster than the tropical rainforests. A third have already been lost.

Halting their destruction could be one of the easiest ways of reducing future emissions, says report, Blue Carbon, a UN collaboration.

With 50 per cent of the world’s population living within 65 miles of the sea, human pressures on nearshore waters are powerful. Since the 1940s, parts of Asia have lost up to 90 per cent of their mangrove forests, robbing both spawning fish and local people of sanctuary from storms.

The salt marshes near estuaries and deltas have suffered a similar fate as they are drained to make room for development. Rich in animal life, they harbour a huge biomass of carbon-fixing vegetation. Seagrass beds often raise the level of the seabed by up to three metres as they bury mats of dead grass but turbid water is threatening their access to sunlight.

“We already know that marine ecosystems are multi-trillion-dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, coastal defence, fisheries and water purification services. Now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change,” said Achin Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General.

The potential contribution of blue carbon sinks has been ignored up to now, says the report, which was a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and Unesco. Accurate figures for the extent of these habitats are hard to obtain, and may be more than twice the lower estimates used in the report.

“The carbon burial capacity of marine vegetated habitats is phenomenal, 180 times greater than the average burial rate in the open ocean,” say the authors. As a result they lock away between 50 and 70 per cent of the organic carbon in the ocean.

To protect them the authors suggest that a Blue Carbon Fund be launched to help developing nations to protect the habitats. Oceanic carbon sinks should also be traded in the same fashion as terrestrial forests, they say. Together with the UN’s scheme to reduce deforestation, they could deliver up to 25 per cent of emission reductions needed to keep global warming below 2C (3.5F).

Christian Nellemann, the editor of the report said:“On current trends they [ecosystems] may be all largely lost within a couple of decades.”