Thursday, May 27, 2010

Iron Fertilization Out, Blue Carbon In

Iron Fertilization Dead in the Water? Controversial Geoengineering Proposal Banned in US Climate Change Legislation

MIAMI, FL (May 27, 2010) -- Climate change legislation released by Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman earlier this month delivered a major blow to ocean fertilization, a controversial geoengineering proposal.  Language in the American Power Act essentially bans iron and urea fertilization, the dumping of iron ferrites or urea to stimulate blooms of carbon-capturing plankton as a means to mitigate climate change.

Ocean fertilization has been considered by some entrepreneurs and scientists as a quick and easy fix for climate change.  In theory blooms of ‘fertilized’ algae would store atmospheric carbon, which then sink to depth.  Other scientists have argued that the concept offers a too simplistic of view of ocean dynamics and lacks scientific merit.  International ocean studies examining the fertilization effects of iron have produced results that fall far short of expectations.

Environmentalists have raised concern over potential impacts, including the triggering of toxic algal blooms which could kill fish and create oceanic dead zones, increased ocean acidification, poisoning of marine mammals, and release of greenhouse gasses.

Blue carbon supported - The Act supports measures to enhance the ocean’s natural carbon function, a concept that has been termed ‘blue carbon’ by the environmental community.  The restoration and conservation of certain coastal and marine ecosystems, which capture and store atmospheric carbon, are included in the Act’s list of eligible climate mitigation projects. 

Recent reports produced by the United Nations Environment Programme and International Union for Conservation of Nature found that, when healthy, mangrove forests, saltwater marshlands and seagrass meadows are extremely effective at storing atmospheric carbon, thereby mitigating climate change.  The reports are titled ‘Blue Carbon’ and ‘The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks,’ respectfully.

“The Senators should be commended for their strong environmental and climate change leadership, and for demonstrating the precautionary principal with regard to potentially dangerous ocean fertilization,” said Steven Lutz, Executive Director of Blue Climate Solutions, a marine conservation organization that supports blue carbon policies.  “Environmental impacts associated with ocean fertilization schemes could dwarf the current Gulf oil spill disaster."

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Additional information:

Please note that the American Power Act is a discussion draft and awaits formal introduction in the Senate.

Blue carbon language is also included in the Clean Energy Partnerships Act of 2009 (S. 2729).  This Act was introduced late last year and is sponsored by nine senators;  Senator Debbie Ann Stabenow (MI), Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK), Sherrod Brown (OH), Robert Casey (PA), Thomas Harkin (IA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Bill Nelson (FL), and Jeanne Shaheen (NH).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gulf Oil Expected in South Florida

Gulf Oil Expected to Impact South Florida Beaches and Coastal Ecosystems

Miami, FL / May, 18, 2010 / Many thanks to U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen for organizing an informative (and bipartisan) roundtable on the Gulf oil spill at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) on Virginia Key, FL, yesterday.

Congresswoman Ros Lehtinen’s district includes the Florida Keys, Key Biscayne, and portions of Miami, all potentially threatened with impacts from the Gulf oil spill.

Ros-Lehtinen is a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the current cap on oil companies' liability for federal economic damages in the event of a spill (the current cap is $75 million).

Attendees to Monday’s event included representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Biscayne National Park, Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management, BP, Senator Nelson’s office, local tourism interests, commercial fishing interests, many marine scientists from RSMAS, concerned citizens, and others. Environmental groups present included Environment Florida, Pew Environment Group (end overfishing campaign), Blue Climate Solutions, and Urban Paradise Guild.

A few notes from the event -

• South Florida is likely to experience oil in the form of weathered tar balls. Amounts are unknown, could be within a week. Scientists reported that it is only a matter of time before oil gets into the Loop Current and heads to South Florida.

• Significant concern was expressed over potential impacts to coastal ecosystems. Coral reefs, mangrove forests, seagrass meadows were specifically identified as ecosystems of concern by a number of attendees. Apparently, if oil covers a mangrove’s root system the plant will die.

• Concern was expressed over potential economic impacts of tar balls reaching the beaches of the Florida Keys, Miami Beach, and Key Biscayne ~ tar ball beaches, anyone?

• Concern was raised over oil dispersant use and its potential impacts to the pelagic environment.

• One question raised was “what can we do to prevent impacts?” The response was disappointing ~ not much can be done to interdict oil tar balls from reaching shore lines, especially if they are floating throughout the water column. “The real answer is, we don't know exactly what the concentration of tar balls will look like or how they'll be distributed or if we'll see them at all” responded Ray Jakubczak of BP.

• Many government agencies reported that they are taking precautions, including the sampling of current environmental conditions at the beaches and in the water, and “are prepared” for potential impacts. We hope so…

A palpable anxiety exists here in South Florida over what we may soon experience. We are in a “wait and see what happens” mode...

Gulf spill could affect So. Fla. (WSVN 7): 

Oil Will Be in the Loop: Scientists (NBC Miami): 

Gulf Oil Is in the Loop Current, Experts Say (National Geographic):

Heavy Sludge Oozes into Marshes of Louisiana (CBS) (first reported impacts to 'blue carbon' ecosystems):

Latest satellite image analysis from Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc. (May 18, 2010). Image available at:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Marine Conservation Advanced through the American Power Act

Miami, FL / May 13, 2010 /  Marine conservation was advanced as part of the solution to climate change in legislation introduced yesterday by Senators Kerry and Lieberman.

The American Power Act is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating climate change and making the transition to a clean energy economy.  It includes support for projects that offset or mitigate carbon emissions.

The legislation advances marine conservation by including the restoration and conservation of certain coastal and marine ecosystems, which capture and store atmospheric carbon, in the list of eligible mitigation projects.

Recent reports produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that, when healthy, mangrove forests, saltwater marshlands and seagrass meadows are extremely effective at storing atmospheric carbon, thereby mitigating climate change.  The reports are titled ‘Blue Carbon’ and ‘The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks,’ respectfully.

In specific, language included in the Act under the Eligible Projects (for offsets) section includes "projects to restore or prevent the conversion, loss, or degradation of vegetated marine coastal habitats,” and “management and restoration of peatland or wetland.”  This language can be seen as an important first step in potential carbon offsets for what many groups have termed ‘blue carbon.’  It also potentially increases the value and utility, and appreciation for, marine conservation around the world.

The American Power Act is available at:
[click Read the Bill, see pages. 387 (line 16) and 388 (line 1)]

Senators Kerry and Lieberman's endorsement of ‘blue carbon’ brings the number of Senators to eleven that formally recognize the role that healthy coastal and marine ecosystems can play as part of the solution to climate change.

Earlier this year, the Blue Climate Coalition thanked nine senators who included similar language in the Clean Energy Partnerships Act, see:

Essentially, ‘blue carbon’ is eminently politically viable.

-Steven, Blue Climate Solutions

When healthy, certain coastal and marine ecosystems, including seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, and saltwater marshlands, capture and store atmospheric carbon thereby helping to mitigate climate change.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Concern Grows Over Gulf Oil Spill

Miami, FL / May 12, 2010 / Blue Climate Solutions joined the Sierra Club, 1Sky, Miami Surfrider, Urban Paradise Guild Greenpeace, and others yesterday on the beach (on Miami Beach) to raise awareness as concern grows over gulf oil spill and potential impacts to beaches and coastal ecosystems...

Activists protest offshore drilling at Miami Beach rally:

Environmental groups protest oil drilling on Miami Beach:

Symbolic oil slick at Miami Beach rally protests oil spill:

Hands Across the Sand Protest - Surfrider Foundation - Miami Beach:

Clean It Up: Mock Oil Spill Hits Miami Beach:

The threat: gulf oil spill to poised enter the Loop Current on May 12, 2010. From Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc., see:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wet and Wild, From Coast to Coast

Wet and Wild, From Coast to Coast

May is American Wetlands Month

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

As NOAA joins the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of American Wetlands Month this May, scientists are shedding new light on the pivotal role that our coastal wetlands play in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Wetlands: The Unsung Heroes

Traditionally, tropical rainforests have been credited in the fight against the relentless buildup of greenhouse gases, acting as natural carbon “sinks” or repositories for excess carbon dioxide. All along, the real carbon sinking superheroes are the world’s wetlands.
Coastal wetlands — seagrass beds, mangrove forests and marshes — cover less than 1 percent of the total marine area on the planet, but they capture up to 70 percent of carbon permanently stored in the marine environment. However, human activities are damaging or destroying these areas just when we need them most.
High resolution (Credit:NOAA)

Colors of the Carbon Rainbow

 “Black” and “brown” carbon are the terms used, respectively, for soot and greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuel emissions and when carbon-containing materials such as garbage and manure break down. “Green” carbon refers to the greenhouse gases trapped and stored by the world’s forests and grasslands.
Color-coding carbon doesn’t stop there. In 2009, the United Nations Environmental Programme introduced the concept of “blue carbon,” referring to the portion of carbon trapped and stored in marine environments such as open sea, coral reefs, sea grass beds, coastal mangroves, estuaries and salt marshes.
Wetlands are effective at storing carbon dioxide because of their near-constant water cover that prevents oxygen from entering the muddy soil and slows bacterial decomposition — a process that releases a lot of carbon dioxide.
High resolution (Credit:NOAA)
Mangroves, marshes and seagrasses capture and store most of the carbon buried in marine sediments — known as blue carbon sinks. Blue (i.e., marine) carbon sinks also beat rainforests in staying power. Carbon that finds its way to the sea floor will stay there for thousands of years, compared to just a few decades in rainforests. However, human activity is degrading these ecosystems — they are disappearing at a rate five to 10 times faster than rainforests.

Conservation for Today and Tomorrow

Our coastal wetlands serve as water purifiers, coastal defenders against storms and nurseries for birds and marine life. To help preserve and restore these wetlands, NOAA’s Coastal Services Center provides information, services, and technology to the nation's coastal resource managers in the public and private sectors.
Based on extensive scientific and management expertise, NOAA provides recommendations on ways to avoid, minimize and mitigate the adverse effects of a project, such as construction that may encroach on a wetland area. NOAA also continues to research the importance of wetlands to fish, the success of coastal wetland restoration efforts, and the effects of development on coastal wetlands.
“We are always most conscious of what’s happening in our own back yards, so people living on the coasts are usually the ones most concerned about coastal wetlands,” says Susan-Marie Stedman, NOAA Fisheries’ wetland scientist. “Yet today’s science tells us that people far inland — and even on other continents — are affected by what is happening to our coastal wetlands. It’s more important than ever that we work as hard as we can to conserve them for today and for future generations.”
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Keeping Watch for Our Wetlands: NOAA and the BP Oil Spill

Although great strides have been made in better managing and observing America’s oceans, coastlines, and Great Lakes over the past two decades, the challenges to protect the marine environment from oil spills are, in some ways, more complex and challenging than ever before.
As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, NOAA has been on the scene of the BP oil spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services on scene and remotely to federal, state and local organizations.
NOAA experts are predicting where the oil is spreading and how weather and sea conditions will affect the oil and cleanup efforts. NOAA also is advising the U.S. Coast Guard on cleanup options, as well as monitoring and assessing damage to sensitive marine resources, including our coastal wetlands.

Wetlands Are Critical to Our Way of Life

This American Wetlands Month, let’s celebrate and appreciate the coastal wetlands that give us protective buffers from storms, cleaner air to breathe and fresh seafood to enjoy.
NOAA, EPA and a host of public and private partners have planned a wide array of events across the nation in May to celebrate and teach us about coastal wetlands. NOAA logo.

Other Resources

10 Things You Can Do to Protect Wetlands
Find American Wetlands Month Events Near You