Friday, April 27, 2012

Blue Carbon Featured in Landmark Climate/Coastal Habitat Restoration Report

A new report linking ecologically important coastal habitat restoration efforts with adaption and mitigation strategies as a method for reducing the impacts of climate change was released on April 19th by Restore America's Estuaries.

The report, which includes Blue Carbon, is titled "Restore - Adapt - Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal Habitat Restoration".

Restore America’s Estuaries Releases Landmark Climate/Coastal Habitat Restoration Report  

“Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal Habitat Restoration” Links Restoration, Adaptation, and Mitigation as Strategies to Limit Climate Change Impacts 

WASHINGTON / 19 April 2012 / Restore America's Estuaries

A landmark study released today by Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE)  for the first time links ecologically important coastal habitat restoration with adaptation and mitigation strategies as a way to reduce the impacts of ongoing global climate  change. 

The report, “Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal  Habitat Restoration,” demonstrates that coastal wetland restoration—everything from  restoring salt marshes, to protecting mangroves, and creating new coastal wetland habitats—can be an integral part of public and private initiatives to combat climate change. 

The report examines the current state of U.S. coasts; likely effects of climate change on those coasts; coastal planning, design, and policymaking considerations; why coastal habitat restoration is essential to climate change adaptation and mitigation; and new findings that indicate that coastal tidal wetlands are efficient carbon sinks for greenhouse gases responsible for much observed global warming, making them essential components of efforts to reduce climate change impacts. The report is a multi-author collaboration bringing together internationally recognized experts in environmental science, policy, and coastal habitat restoration. 

Among the report’s key findings and recommendations:
  • America’s coasts face unprecedented stresses as a result of ongoing—and likely accelerating—global climate change; early and swift action is essential if we are to reduce its effects.
  • Government policy makers and restoration professionals must adopt an ecosystem-based restoration perspective featuring coordinated regional planning and projects.
  • Coastal restoration does not exist apart from coastal communities and their residents. In fact, the fate and, in some cases, existence of these communities is inextricably linked to healthy coasts and estuaries. Coastal residents must be made aware of and invested in the need for preservation and adaptation where possible, and restoration and mitigation where needed.
  • Many of the expected effects from climate change—global warming, sea level rise, coastal erosion, and an increase in the number and intensity of major storms—may not happen gradually and incrementally.  Current evidence suggests that there may be a sudden tipping point, beyond which major and potentially catastrophic changes in weather, temperature, and sea level occur.
  • New science indicates that coastal wetlands—particularly tidal-saline wetland systems—are incredibly efficient carbon sinks for greenhouse gases (GHG). This makes coastal restoration, adaptation, and mitigation essential elements in government planning and policy, and has profound ramifications and opportunities for government and commercial investments in domestic and international carbon markets.

“The restoration and conservation of the world’s coasts is among the greatest challenges of the 21st century. We are now at a crossroads. This report gives both governments and private interests new information and recommendations in the effort to reduce the effects of global climate change,” said Dr. Brian Needelman, lead author and editor for the report, and Associate Professor of Soil Science at the University of Maryland.  

Particularly important, he noted, are the findings and research into the efficacy of coastal wetlands in carbon sequestration. 

Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are potent greenhouse gases (GHG), which contribute to global warming. While it is well known that forest ecosystems can store large amounts of GHG carbon—popularly known as “Green Carbon”—and help reduce global warming, new research is focusing on so-called “Blue Carbon” in coastal wetland ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes. Recent findings suggest that coastal wetlands can sequester carbon at rates 3-5 times greater than temperate forests, making them efficient—and essential—carbon “sinks,” as world temperatures and sea levels rise.   

“Coastal wetlands not only store carbon, restored and expanded tidal wetlands sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide as well, providing big incentives for the private sector to invest in large-scale restoration of tidal wetlands,” said Jeff Benoit, President and Executive Director of Restore America’s Estuaries.  He notes that Restore America’s Estuaries has been a leader in the effort to create a national greenhouse gas protocol for coastal tidal wetlands. Such a protocol would bring coastal wetlands into international carbon markets, providing new opportunities and incentives for public and private investment in the restoration and preservation of vital tidal wetlands. 

Report contributors include: Stephen Crooks, Director of Climate Change Services at ESA PWA; Janet Hawkes, Managing Director of HD1 LLC; Brian Needelman, Associate Professor of Soil Science at the University of Maryland/Department of Environmental Science and Technology; Caroly Shumway, President of CAS Environmental Solutions; Richard Takacs, NOAA Fisheries Biologist; and James G. Titus, a Lawyer-Applied Mathematician with the U.S. EPA. 

Funding for the report was provided by the Henry Phillip Kraft Family Memorial Fund of the New York Community Trust, the Marisla Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Coastal Program. 

Founded in 1995, Restore America’s Estuaries ( is a national alliance of 11 regional, coastal conservation organizations with more than 250,000 volunteer-members dedicated to preserving our nation’s estuaries. RAE members include: American Littoral Society, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Conservation Law Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Galveston Bay Foundation, North Carolina Coastal Federation, People For Puget Sound, Save The Bay-Narragansett Bay, Save The Bay-San Francisco, Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Tampa Bay Watch. 
To download the full report, go to:

For additional information, please contact: Howard White, Communications Specialist,
Restore America’s Estuaries at 703-524-0248, hwhite (at)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blue Carbon side event at Rio+20

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Conservation International, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Ecuador are organizing a Blue Carbon side event at Rio +20. The event will discuss and present various tools building on the work of Blue Carbon policy framework.

Blue carbon: a tool to mitigate climate change and preserve key marine and coastal ecosystems

Restored mangroves around a shrimp farm in Batangas, Verde Island Passage, Philippines. © Conservation International/photo by Giuseppe Di Carlo.

23 April 2012 / UNESCO - The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable development (Rio+20) is an opportunity to set a new agenda for a sustainable future. As delegates meet in New York for the second round of informal negotiations on the zero draft of the Rio+20 outcome document, a side event was organized to inform them of the potential value of coastal ecosystem conservation through blue carbon initiatives, as a means to ensure long term sustainability of coastal areas and green economic development whilst effectively mitigating climate change.

Ecosystem services provided by coastal and marine habitats are of crucial importance for food security and poverty eradication, as well as many of the sectors currently driving the economies of coastal nations.

Some of these ecosystems, such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows, beyond having high biodiversity values and providing breeding grounds and nurseries for fisheries, can also play a key role in mitigating global climate change through their ability to store carbon.  Anthropogenic carbon emissions in the atmosphere and oceans are the most significant cause of global climate change. Curbing climate change means both removing carbon from the atmosphere and oceans and avoiding new carbon emissions.

Total carbon deposits per square kilometer in these coastal systems may be up to five times the carbon stored in tropical forests, due to their ability to absorb, or sequester, carbon at rates up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest.

These Blue Carbon ecosystems are being degraded and destroyed at a rapid pace along the world’s coastlines, resulting in globally significant emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and ocean and contributing to climate change. Draining a typical coastal wetland, such as a mangrove or marsh, releases 0.25 million tons of carbon dioxide per square kilometer for every meter of soil that’s lost.  Global data shows that seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves are being degraded or destroyed along the world’s coastlines at a rapid pace. In fact, between 1980 and 2005, 35,000 square kilometers of mangroves were removed globally – an area the size of the nation of Belgium.

There is growing evidence and consensus that the management of coastal Blue Carbon ecosystems, through avoided emissions, conservation, restoration and sustainable use has strong potential as a transformational tool in effective global natural carbon management. Scientific understanding of carbon sequestration and potential emissions from coastal ecosystems is now sufficient to develop effective carbon management, policy, and conservation incentives for coastal Blue Carbon.

With appropriate and timely action through the Rio+20 negotiating process, increased recognition of the importance of coastal Blue Carbon systems will leverage improved management and regulation of coastal areas and provide a basis for incentives, including financial mechanisms, to conserve or restore these systems and avoid and manage emissions as well as impacts, i.e. support mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

This side event was organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Conservation International, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Ecuador to provide timely information to delegates during the process. This event will be the occasion to discuss and present a number innovative tools building on the work of the Blue Carbon Policy Framework. Key questions that will be addressed in the framework of Rio+20 will also be discussed, such as:
  • Should the UNCSD set up a process to promote coastal habitat protection and restoration targets for States with clear timelines and commitments?
  • Should a Green Economy approach include the creation of financial sustainability mechanisms, economic valuation (both market and non-market values) of key coastal habitats, and incentives to promote change to more sustainable uses such as ecotourism and small-scale fisheries?
  • How can institutional capacity at the international and national levels be improved to implement tools through subsidizing land / ocean use change to more sustainable methods, monitoring and reporting implementation, and building capacity through training?
In preparation for Rio+20, UNESCO-IOC, together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), have prepared a Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability. This paper provides a context for the Rio+20 discussions through analysis of current challenges in ocean and coastal management around the world. More importantly, it puts forward a concrete set of proposals and objectives to transition to a Blue-Green Economy. One of these proposals is the development of a global programme aimed at greater protection and restoration of vital ocean and coastal habitats, and of a global blue carbon market as a means of creating direct economic gain through habitat protection.

Event details available from:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blue Carbon habitats damaged by wind farms

Despite its critical role in reducing climate change, Blue Carbon is a relatively unknown term to many people.

Struan Stevenson, a Conservative Party MEP for Scotland and president of the European Parliament's climate change, frequently draws attention to the importance of Blue Carbon sinks and in this article he addresses the issue of the increasing loss of Blue Carbon habitats due to ongoing and planned wind farm development in Scotland.

He is clear in in message, arguing that "Blue Carbon sinks are far more effective in the battle against climate change than turbines can ever be and it is time they received full protection".

Wind farms are damaging ocean carbon sinks

We cannot afford to sanction the continued destruction of our remaining 'blue carbon' habitats merely to fast track wind farm development – warns MEP

12 April 2012 / Struan Stevenson / Public Service Europe - The role played by forests and peat bogs in capturing and storing carbon is well-known. We call this 'green carbon'. But now, there is increasing awareness and attention being paid to the crucial role of our oceans and marine ecosystems in maintaining our climate. Around 55 per cent of all the biological carbon captured in the world is sequestered by marine living organisms in the sea. This is 'blue carbon'.

Every day, we add a further 22 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide to our oceans. That is why maintaining and improving the ability of our oceans to capture and store carbon is of vital importance to human survival. We can no longer afford to overlook the critical role of our oceans. Without the essential ecosystem service they provide, climate change would be far worse. Seagrass meadows also provide an important habitat for shellfish and finfish and help maintain biodiversity, water quality and prevent coastal erosion. Their presence and abundance is therefore a good measure of the environmental quality of the entire coastal zone.

Recent research has indicated that a tiny part of the marine environment – the mangrove swamps, salt marshes and seagrasses that cover just 0.5 per cent of the seabed – account for the capture of at least half, and maybe three-quarters, of this blue carbon. They are our blue carbon sinks and keeping them in good shape could be one of our most important undertakings to control climate change. While most mangrove swamps are in the tropics and subtropics, the United Kingdom possesses large areas of the other blue carbon stores with its seagrass meadows and salt marshes. Government agency Scottish National Heritage has noted that the vast majority of the UK's seagrass meadows are located in Scottish waters, accounting for some 20 per cent of Europe's total.

Groups such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Conservation have highlighted that seagrasses around Scotland are most likely to occur in very shallow coastal waters, probably less than five metres in depth, because of the relatively low water clarity of oceans at higher latitudes. So, while blue carbon experts have previously assumed that offshore turbine developments are built in deeper waters and away from the sandbanks where seagrasses thrive, it is now clear that this is not the case.

In the North Sea alone, operational wind farms have already been built in shallow waters. Lynn and Inner Dowsing Wind Farm has 54 turbines with a depth range of between six and 11 metres. The Gunfleet Sands Wind Farm has 48 turbines in a depth range of between two and five metres. Kentish Flats Wind Farm has 30 turbines in a depth range of between three and five metres and Scroby Sands Wind Farm has 30 turbines in a depth range of up to eight metres. Those are just a few examples of current operational wind farms in the North Sea. There are plenty more in operation, or planned, both there and in other coastal areas.

Offshore wind farms will also affect salt marshes. Saltmarshes are vegetated parts of the upper intertidal area found on our enclosed shores and Scottish saltmarshes make up 15 per cent of the total British resource. Scotland's largest areas of saltmarsh are located in two main areas: the Solway Firth and the Moray Firth. Yet, despite the importance of these natural resources, both locations are key locations for wind farm planners.

The Solway Firth is currently home to Robin Rigg wind farm, Scotland's first offshore wind development which was completed in April 2010. Solway Firth now houses 100 turbines in a depth range of between four and 23 metres within a 59 kilometre squared area, even though Scottish ministers agreed that "the Solway Firth and Wigtown Bay sites are unsuitable for the development of offshore wind and should not be progressed as part of this Sectoral Marine Plan".

At present, a number of developers are preparing applications to site huge wind farms in the Moray Firth development area as the Scottish Government has noted that the region "has favourable conditions and significant potential for the development of offshore wind both within Scottish territorial waters and beyond into Scottish offshore waters". The government does not mention either saltmarshes or seagrasses in its "sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy in Scottish territorial waters', though they do note that there are potential adverse effects on bottlenose dolphins.

Despite its importance, blue carbon is still a relatively unknown issue. The message to policy-makers is clear - we cannot afford to sanction the continued destruction of our remaining blue carbon habitats merely to fast-track wind farm development. Blue carbon sinks are far more effective in the battle against climate change than turbines can ever be and it is time they received full protection.

Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Party MEP for Scotland and president of the European Parliament's climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development intergroup.

Blue Carbon Photos - Life in the Seagrass

Seagrass is a key ecosystem in the sequestration and storing of carbon and is also critical to the life of various species. Here are a few images of life in the seagrass...

Croatian seagrass bed (Image credit: Steven Lutz / GRID-Arendal)

A small school of fish on a seagrass meadow off Key Biscayne, FL (Image credit: Steven Lutz / GRID-Arendal)

Starfish in the seagrass off the Florida Keys (Image credit: Steven Lutz / GRID-Arendal)

Small fish in the seagrass off Bali, Indonesia (Image credit: Steven Lutz / GRID-Arendal)

Manatee swimming over seagrasses off Key Biscayne, FL (Image credit: Steven Lutz / GRID-Arendal)

All images are intended for free non-commercial and non-profit use, listing of image credit is required.

Melanesia Blue Carbon Initiative Called For

Melanesian Leaders calls for a Blue Carbon Initiative 

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) consisting of Fiji,  FLNKS, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, recently signed the "MSG Leaders Declaration on Environment & Climate Change", an effort to fight climate change.

The declaration acknowledges the crucial role of mangroves, wetlands, coastal swamps and sea grass beds in sequestering and storing carbon and called for a " Melanesia Blue Carbon Initiative".

Leaders pledge to fight climate change

31 March 2012/by Tevita Vuibau/The Fiji Times Online

Fiji's Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, front right, with RFMF Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga arrive for the opening of the MSG Leaders Summit. Photo by The Fiji Times

Leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group have taken a stand against climate change with the signing of the "MSG Leaders Declaration on Environment & Climate Change" yesterday.

The declaration was endorsed after the inaugural MSG climate change meeting that took place in Nadi.

In signing the declaration, the leaders acknowledged the critical importance of a healthy environment for the long term livelihoods of the people of Melanesia.

Under the declaration, a "Framework for Growth" was also adopted. The framework will form the basis for all development and notes the threats of climate change to the viability of some of the MSG's island countries.

The leaders also called for a "Melanesia Blue Carbon Initiative" that will recognise the significant role of mangroves, wetlands, coastal swamps and sea grass beds in removing carbon from the environment.

A "Melanesia Terrestrial Commitment" for conservation was also established during the MSG meetings.

The commitment will contribute to the conservation, sustainable management and restoration of the terrestrial environment and coastal ecosystems.

According to the MSG secretariat, the commitment also formalises an obligation from each of the members to conserve and manage forests, major water catchments and river systems and other eco-systems. It will also ensure that sustainable land practices are applied to agriculture and development.

"Traditional landowner communities will be effectively engaged and supported in the process of managing and conserving their environment," said the secretariat.