Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

From Blue Climate Solutions and the productive and carbon storing ecosystems of South Florida!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seagrass Field Trip

10 Dec 2010 -- The seagrass meadows of Biscayne Bay, Florida, was the focus of an international outing on Wednesday (Dec. 7).

Marine managers and conservationists from the Americas and Caribbean were joined by The Ocean Foundation, and Blue Climate Solutions in exploring the ecosystem services of Florida’s seagrass ecosystems.

Topics discussed during the field trip included the impacts of boat groundings, restoration efforts, and the importance of seagrass related ecosystem services including seagrass conservation as part of the solution to climate change.

When healthy, seagrass meadows fix carbon through photosynthesis and sediment trapping, thereby mitigating greenhouse gas pollution and climate change. Seagrass meadows, along with mangrove forests and saltwater marshlands are known as Blue Carbon ecosystems.

The outing was organized as part of the 4th annual meeting of the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative (WHIMSI). WHMSI is a groundbreaking collective effort to enhance the conservation of the Western Hemisphere's migratory species by strengthening cooperation among States, international initiatives and civil society. For more information see:

Lush seagrass habitat visited during the outing (someone said the water was 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it was not, birr!).

Biscayne National Park provided transport.

Healthy seagrass meadows are vital for marine biodiversity (including Dolphins).

Mangroves of Boca Chita.

Boca Chita lighthouse.

Mangrove restoration at Dinner Key Marina.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The buzz around blue carbon

From the World Bank Blog (a great post by Marea Hatziolos) -

The buzz around blue carbon

Submitted by Marea E. Hatziolos on Sun, 12/05/2010 - 17:49

The delegates and observers at the COP16 in Cancun are getting an earful about Blue Carbon—shorthand for atmospheric carbon sequestered in the earth’s coastal and nearshore environments. Oceans Day at Cancun will feature a session on Blue Carbon, and briefs, and blogs by ocean advocates are circulating on the net and at side events. The reason for the buzz is that coastal wetlands, including tidal salt marshes, estuaries and river deltas, mangroves and sea grass beds are highly efficient at taking up CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into organic material—then storing it in the soil. In fact, the root systems and sediment layers which build up as this organic material is generated, broken down and deposited, are up to ten times more rich in carbon than the biomass above the surface.

This makes coastal wetlands even better at sequestering carbon than tropical forests. And, unlike their counterparts on land whose net growth peaks when the forest matures, wetland vegetation continues to grow and sequester carbon in the soil as long as sediments are deposited and the environment remains healthy. This is why Blue Carbon is being brought into the international dialogue on carbon emission offsets and the domain of REDD+ eligible activities. A statement, signed by 55 marine and environmental stakeholders from 19 countries has been presented to the COP for action.

Like peat lands, tidal salt marshes and estuaries can turn from natural sinks to net emitters of greenhouse gasses when they are drained, burned or converted for agriculture, and the soil becomes exposed to air. Mangroves wetlands that are starved of sediment and freshwaters flows through damming of rivers, or converted into shrimp ponds or paddy or beachfront property for five star hotels no longer store carbon. Instead they emit methane, a GHG four times as potent as carbon dioxide, and highly explosive. Less than two weeks ago, a luxury hotel built on top of a mangrove wetlands not far from the where the COP 16 is deliberating in Cancun, suffered a massive explosion and loss of life.

Across the Ocean and several continents away in the Bay of Bengal, mangroves play another, more vital role. Battered by cyclones and storm surge, Bangladesh invested in shoring up its exposed coastline through a massive mangrove aforestation program. This proved to be providential. When Super Cyclone Sidr stuck in 2007—the strongest named cyclone on record in the Bay of Bengal—the loss of life was around 4-5,000 people. One year later, in Myanmar, Cyclone Nargis whipped across the Ayerwaddy Delta at similar wind speeds, but without the native mangrove forests to act as a shield—these having been cleared over decades to make room for rice paddy—over 140,000 people lost their lives in the storm surge.

Seagrass beds, which are often found adjacent to mangroves in sheltered bays along warm water coasts, also store large amounts of carbon in their root systems and in the soil they bind. This is in addition to stabilizing sediment and providing food for sea turtles, manatees and other important herbivores at the base of the food chain. So, besides stripping CO2 from the atmosphere, coastal wetlands provide a myriad of co-benefits to society that need to be recognized, valued and accounted for. While protection of these natural assets should be the first order of business, restoring degraded wetlands can pay huge dividends in terms of recovering natural carbon sinks, reducing emissions and building resilience into vulnerable coastal communities.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Overfishing and Climate Change

More on "fish" or "whale carbon"...

(good stuff)

Where overfishing and climate change meet

Sunday, December 5, 2010 Bryan Wallace, PhD

It is often said that to be responsible stewards of the oceans (or other natural systems), we need to be conscious of both what we take out and what we put in.

Among the myriad threats to the world’s oceans, overfishing is likely the most influential extractive activity, while influx of carbon-dioxide is disrupting basic ocean chemistry.

Are these two impacts related in any way? Have impacts of one exacerbated impacts of the other? What if we could kill these two birds with one stone?

To put a finer point on it, could all the biomass fished out of oceans be weakening the oceans’ collective abilities to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere and help to maintain global climate stability?

Some researchers think so. In a recent study entitled “The impact of whaling on the ocean carbon cycle: why bigger was better,” marine scientists estimated the total amount of carbon lost via global whaling activities targeting the baleen whales, the largest animals on the planet.

The idea is this: animal bodies are made of carbon, some of which comes from CO2 that is naturally absorbed by the ocean from the atmosphere. Bigger animals require more carbon, and thus are larger carbon ‘sinks’ than smaller animals. Larger populations of bigger animals, therefore, tie up even more carbon.

When these big animals die, they eventually sink through the abyss to the ocean floor, where incredibly diverse and largely unknown critters gorge on the rotting flesh that falls from above. This ‘marine snow’ is vital to benthic (i.e. ocean bottom) ecosystems, and the carbon transfers from tissues of dead animals to live ones – the ocean carbon cycle in action.

Harvesting marine animals breaks a crucial link in this process by removing important CO2 sponges that are sources for other marine animals. With these big sponges gone, ocean water has to absorb the carbon, thus speeding the ocean acidification process. So fishing could be making climate change impacts worse, especially when the biggest ocean animals with the most potential as carbon sinks are eliminated from the marine carbon cycle.

In addition to whales, what other animals that could play a key role in regulating the air-ocean carbon exchange are being reduced by human exploitation? Big ticket items like tuna, swordfish, and sharks serve enormous global consumptive demand, but are also among the ocean’s largest animals. This means that depletions in their numbers disrupt marine food webs and ecosystem function, but could also represent significant quantities of 'lost' carbon.

This could be another powerful argument in favor of sensible, science-based limits on exploitation of these big-bodied species. The big roles that healthy marine megafauna populations play in carbon storage might be just the creative thinking needed to more effectively mitigate impacts of human-induced climate change.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Marine Conservation Climate Hope for Cancún

Distinguished Marine Conservation Scientists Offer Climate Hope for Cancún

03 Dec. 2010 | Miami, FL -- A scientist's statement calling attention to ocean's role in  climate change was released today. The Sant Feliu De Guíxols Ocean Carbon Declaration was drawn up during the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation, held in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Spain, on 26 September 2010. Signed by twenty-nine Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation and Advisors, from twelve countries, its release coincides with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16), currently ongoing in Cancún, Mexico.

The declaration draws attention to the role of the oceans in the planet’s carbon cycle and, in particular, their ability to store carbon and mitigate greenhouse gas pollution. The declaration highlights how certain coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangrove and kelp forests, seagrass meadows and saltwater marshlands, naturally help absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Also highlighted, for the open oceans, is a promising potential role for large marine life, such as whales, sharks and finfish, as effective carbon sinks.

Policymakers are recommended to adopt the following initiatives:

1) Include coastal marine ecosystem conservation and restoration in strategies for climate change mitigation.

2) Fund targeted research to improve our understanding of the contribution of coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems to the carbon cycle and to the effective removal of carbon from the atmosphere.

-Steven Lutz, Blue Climate Solutions

See also:

For the document click here - Declaration, or follow the link below.

Pew fellows add their voice on oceans’ critical importance in carbon cycle (bluecarbonportal)

Post revised Dec 9, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Call for Blue Carbon in Cancún at COP16

02 Dec. 2010 | Miami, FL -- The Blue Climate Coalition has issued an open statement to the delegates of COP16, calling for blue carbon to be included in international climate change treaties.

The Coalition was represented by fifty-five marine and environmental stakeholders from nineteen countries who signed-on. The statement highlights the role that certain coastal and marine ecosystems – such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, saltwater marshlands, and kelp forests – can play as part of the solution to climate change. When healthy, these ecosystems store atmospheric carbon and thereby help mitigate climate change.

The Statement also suggests a potential exiting similar blue carbon role for marine vertebrates – including whales and fin fish – as carbon sinks, based on promising new research.

The Coalition’s recommendations to the Parties of the Conference include:

1) Include the conservation and restoration of mangrove, saltwater marsh, seagrass, and kelp ecosystems in your strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation;

2) Establish a global Blue Carbon Fund for the protection and management of these important coastal ecosystems;

3) Include blue carbon sinks in national REDD+ strategies and greenhouse gas accounting; and

4) Support coordinated scientific research to better quantify blue carbon’s role in climate mitigation, including the development of protocols and methodologies for monitoring, reporting, and verification of coastal and marine carbon sinks.

The Blue Climate Coalition was formed in November 2009 to help advance coastal and marine conservation as part of the solution to climate change.  Over 100 conservation groups and environmental stakeholders, and over 150 scientists together from 43 countries, have joined the Coalition’s call to support blue carbon solutions for climate change.

-Steven, Blue Climate Solutions
See also:

Blue Carbon Solutions for Climate Change, Open Statement to the Delegates of COP16 by the Blue Climate Coalition. 6 pp, Nov 30, 2010. (first document listed)

In Cancun, everyone’s talking about Blue Carbon

Call for inclusion of Blue Carbon @COP16