Thursday, August 30, 2012

Global Blue Carbon Storage

Manatees are long-lived marine mammals whose diet consists of sea grass (Photo: S. Lutz)

Benjamin S. Halpern et al. have published an article in the nature journal unveiling the "Ocean Health Index", a tool to measure the condition of the world's oceans and coastal ecosystems. The Ocean Health Index also includes a map of global Blue Carbon storage.

An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean

AbstractThe ocean plays a critical role in supporting human well-being, from providing food, livelihoods and recreational opportunities to regulating the global climate. Sustainable management aimed at maintaining the flow of a broad range of benefits from the ocean requires a comprehensive and quantitative method to measure and monitor the health of coupled human–ocean systems. We created an index comprising ten diverse public goals for a healthy coupled human–ocean system and calculated the index for every coastal country. Globally, the overall index score was 60 out of 100 (range 36–86), with developed countries generally performing better than developing countries, but with notable exceptions. Only 5% of countries scored higher than 70, whereas 32% scored lower than 50. The index provides a powerful tool to raise public awareness, direct resource management, improve policy and prioritize scientific research.

Reference: Halpern, B. S. et al. (2012): An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean. Nature advance online publication:

Related stories:

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blue Carbon in Indonesia

Mangroves of Bali (photo: S. Lutz)

In his article, author Andreas A. Hutahaean, principal investigator of the Indonesia Blue Carbon Project, shows the importance of Blue Carbon ecosystems and addresses the urgent need for conservation efforts in Indonesia -

Blue Carbon: A new hope for Indonesia

The Jakarta Post | Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 | by Andreas A. Hutahaean

While carbon dioxide emissions reductions are currently at the center of global climate change discussions, the critical role of coastal-marine ecosystems for carbon sequestration or as sinks has been overlooked or even neglected. The reasons are mainly due to the lag of scientific data because of the complexity of coastal-marine ecosystems.

In Indonesia, these ecosystems have not received sufficient attention considering their importance for climate change strategy, as most of the attention has gone to terrestrial ecosystems, such as the forest and agricultural sectors.

Moreover, the Indonesian program on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is running slow and its forest moratorium has not worked well, making it unlikely that the Indonesian government will meet its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

Tropical coastal-marine ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass meadows are known as hot spots for biodiversity and for their valuable ecosystem services. Recently, scientists found out about the important functions of the ecosystems as carbon sequestration or sinks. This carbon, captured by coastal-marine organisms through photosynthesis, has been called blue carbon. 

In this process, mangrove and seagrass binds carbon dioxide and water, and, with the assistance of sunlight, is converted into sugars and oxygen to support their growth. The remaining excess production of the plant is buried in the sediment, where it can remain stored.

Indonesia, an archipelagic country, is located along the equator at the heart of the so-called Coral Triangle. The nation’s geography causes warm climate over the country and has made the Indonesian coastal-marine environment become a suitable habitat for the growing of mangroves and seagrass. 

Recently, researchers found that seagrass meadows could store up to 83,000 tons of carbon/m3/km2, mostly in the sediments beneath them. In comparison, terrestrial forests store about 30,000 tons of carbon/m3/km2, most of which is in the form of wood. This study was the first global analysis of carbon stored in seagrass and the finding was published in Nature Geoscience in May.

The study also estimates that, although seagrass meadows take up small percentage of global coastal area (about less than 0.2 percent of world’s oceans), they are responsible for more than 10 percent of all carbon buried annually in the sea.

Similar to seagrass, mangrove ecosystems have been known for their high productivity in the carbon cycle. The ecosystem can store a large amount of carbon in the deep organic sediment in which it thrives. It has the ability to store five times as much carbon as has been observed in temperate, boreal and tropical rainforests. This high amount carbon storage suggests mangroves could play an important role in climate change mitigation.

However, Indonesia’s blue-carbon ecosystems are among the world’s most threatened. About 3 to 7 percent of the ecosystems are disappearing every year, with the worst conditions found on the north coast of Java. The main reasons is mostly dredging, the degradation of water quality, deforestation and aquaculture activities. 

A pilot project on Indonesian Blue Carbon in Banten Bay found at least 70 percent of the mangrove ecosystem was lost to aquaculture farms or land reclamation, while only 20 to 30 percent was used effectively by fisherman. To overcome these problems, strong attention from local communities and the government are needed.

Healthy natural coastal-marine ecosystems, such as mangrove and seagrass, provide a vast array of important co-benefits to coastal communities, particularly fishermen. These benefits include ecosystem services such as the protection of shorelines from storms, erosion or sea-level rise; the provision food from fisheries; the maintenance of water quality and landscapes for ecotourism.

In a blue carbon context these ecosystems also store and sequester a vast amount of carbon in sediments and biomass. Also from a global perspective, blue carbon mostly covers the tropical coastal-marine environment and is among the most effective carbon sinks known today.

Having the largest mangrove and seagrass ecosystems in the world makes blue carbon important for Indonesia’s climate change strategy, not only in international forums, but also to fulfill the government’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by up to 26 percent by 2020.

The writer is principal investigator of the Indonesia Blue Carbon Project and a researcher at the Coastal and Marine Resources Research Center at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Blue Carbon Special Issue

The Blue Carbon Special Edition: Ocean and Coastal Management

Gabriel Grimsditch, Jaqueline Alder, Takehiro Nakamura (from UNEP Nairobi), Jerker Tamelander (UNEP Thailand) and Richard Kenchington (University of Wollongong) recently released "The Blue Carbon Special Edition" of Ocean and Coastal Management.

Seagrass meadow, Florida (S. Lutz)

Highlights include:
  • Special edition on carbon stored and sequestered in coastal ecosystems. 
  • Carbon market options and payment for ecosystem services schemes are analyzed.
  • Carbon storage and sequestration science in seagrass ecosystems is synthesized. 
  • Monitoring techniques for sustainability and coverage of ecosystems are analyzed.

The blue carbon special edition - introduction and overview by Grimsditch, G, Kenchington, R, Alder, J, Tamelander, J, and Nakamura, T.

Including blue carbon in climate market mechanisms by Ullman, R, Bilbao-Bastida, V and Grimsditch, G.

Conceptualizing payments for ecosystem services in blue forests on carbon and other marine and coastal ecosystem services by Lau, W.

Assessing the capacity of seagrass meadows for carbon burial: current limitations and future strategies by Duarte, C, Kennedy, H, Marba, N, and Hendriks, I.

What do we need to assess the sustainability of the tidal salt marsh carbon sink? by Chmura, G.

Mapping of mangrove forest land cover change along the Kenya coastline using Landsat imagery by Kirui, B, Kairo, J, Bosire, J, Viergever, K, Syama, R and Huxham, M.

Issue available at ScienceDirect: 

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blue Carbon in the Coral Triangle

WWF Australia recently published the 2012 report "Blue Carbon - A new concept for reducing the impacts of climate change by conserving coastal ecosystems in the Coral Triangle."

Download pdf

WWF Australia aims at politicians, governments, businesses and organizations that influence the development of policies and strategies in climate change mitigation and adaptation, poverty alleviation, natural resource use, biodiversity conservation and economics. The aim of the report is to stimulate discussion and debate on how to promote and utilize healthy coastal ecosystems and the valuable benefits they provide to support a sustainable and more climate resilient future for communities within the Coral Triangle.

Key blue carbon statements:


  • Build on existing policy mechanisms that support integrated coastal zone management to ensure a priority focus on coastal ecosystems management;
  • Reduce current greenhouse gas emissions from degraded coastal ecosystems through improved conservation and restoration;
  • Leverage existing coastal ecosystem conservation programs to use blue carbon as a means to provide ongoing funding to regional and national coastal ecosystem livelihood improvement programs and site-level adaptation projects.


  • Build on and including blue carbon into existing regional, national and sub- national climate change policies, strategies and adaptation action plans;
  • Work with the Global Blue Carbon Initiative to influence the UNFCCC.


  • Commence pilot and demonstration projects geared towards the collection of coastal ecosystem carbon emissions data in preparation for an offset scheme should it become available down the track.


  • Build resilience in coastal communities to improve food security and wellbeing through developing natural adaptation strategies for coastal communities through community led conservation of coastal ecosystems.

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blue Carbon Offset

Seafood Choices is offering blue carbon offsets for greenhouse gas emissions related to travel and participation of the 2012 International Seafood Summit -


Help Us Create a Greener (and Bluer) Seafood Summit

The Ocean Foundation / Washington D.C. - Through The Ocean Foundation’s SeaGrass Grow! project, Seafood Choices is offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from the core activities of the 2012 International Seafood Summit. Seafood Choices has chosen The Ocean Foundation as an offset partner due to its focus on ocean habitats in developing a new way to naturally offset greenhouse gas emissions in the ocean – known as “Blue Carbon.”

The Ocean Foundation created SeaGrass Grow! to restore seagrass habitat that offers protection from storms and prevention of shoreline erosion, and also locally fixes carbon (to slow ocean acidification) and stores carbon (with long-term sequestration). Healthy seagrass meadows also support tourism, food security, and both commercial and recreational fishing. And, in addition to providing nurseries for fish, seagrass meadows also offer grazing opportunities for endangered sea turtles, manatees, and dugongs.

In conjunction with its work to restore lost and damaged seagrass meadows, The Ocean Foundation also works to preserve blue carbon across the globe. The Ocean Foundation hosts the Blue Climate Coalition, which seeks enhanced international recognition of the opportunities to certify carbon credits in coastal carbon ecosystems, and facilitate the inclusion of the carbon value of coastal ecosystems in the accounting of ecosystem services. Thus, The Ocean Foundation will, in the future, offer real and permanent emissions offsets that are credible, and carbon sequestration that is verifiable. Presently The Ocean Foundation is “banking” the square kilometers of restoration in anticipation of certification, and, thus will also have developed a network of demonstration projects.

Read the full story here:

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Dr. Silvia Earle at Eye on Earth Summit

During her speech at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi, December 2011, Dr. Silvia Earle highlighted the importance of blue carbon ecosystems - 

Dr. Silvia Earle at the Eye on Earth Summit at the Abu Dhabi (photo: Mission Blue).

Dr. Earle Speaks at 'Eye on Earth Summit'

Thursday, December 15, 2011 / Abu Dhabi / Courtesy of 'The National' / Edited by Deb Castellana

In 1991, the renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle was in the Gulf to view first-hand the damage being caused by the blazing oilfields of Kuwait, set alight by retreating Iraqi forces. Now, 20 years later, Dr Earle is back in the region to warn of other threats to the Gulf's waters, and those of the world.

She first came to the Gulf as a chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, and spent a month scuba diving in the waters of the Gulf in 1992 as part of an international scientific expedition to survey the coastline from Oman to Kuwait.

"It was an opportunity to see the Gulf before all this," Dr. Earle said jokingly yesterday, pointing to the new high-rises of Abu Dhabi.

After her speech at the Eye on Earth Summit at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, she listed the threats to the oceans: overfishing, pollution, plastic debris, fertiliser run-off and other types of chemical waste.

"But the number one problem, absolutely and by far away, is ignorance," Dr. Earle said. "You cannot care if you do not know.

Most see the ocean as a source of food and recreation, but she said recent scientific discoveries had shown the sea serves a much more profound role in maintaining life on Earth.

"The blue ocean beyond, the high seas and most of the surface waters on the world … this is truly the blue engine that is driving the way the world works," Dr. Earle said.

Twenty per cent of the oxygen in the atmosphere is created by micro-organisms bacteria living in sea water that were not even known to science before 1986, she said in her speech.

"We don't even appreciate how much oxygen comes from the sea, but with every breath you take you are connected to the ocean, no matter where on the planet you live," Dr. Earle said.

As the ocean creates oxygen, it takes in carbon dioxide. This is becoming increasingly important considering that emissions of the gas are rising as a result of fossil fuels. These emissions threaten to disrupt the climate with catastrophic consequences.

Algae and coral reefs all sequester carbon, as do salt marshes and sea grass beds.

Mangroves, the world's only tree species capable of surviving in salt water, also play an important and until recently undervalued role.

"Here as well as in coastal systems all over the world, these systems have been degraded at a rate even greater than the loss of forests on the land, and yet mangroves are now known to gather and sequester up to 50 times as much carbon as their terrestrial counterparts," Dr. Earle said.

"The decisions that we make in the next 10 years are likely to be the most important in the next 10,000 years because we're right at the edge now, we know, of losing much that we … could and did, and to some extent still do, take very much for granted."

Among the speakers at the environmental event in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, which concludes today, was Dr. Thabit Al Abdessalaam, the director of the marine biodiversity management sector at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (Ead).

He expressed a similar opinion.

"We are spending billions of dollars to capture carbon dioxide and here we have a more natural, a more effective and cheaper way to share carbon," Dr. Al Abdessalaam said.

Many steps are necessary to ensure the preservation of the ocean but ultimately, one key priority is setting aside more marine-protected areas. For now, just more than 1 per cent of the ocean is protected, Dr. Earle said.

Dr. Al Abdessalaam said Ead was considering expanding the territory of protected areas, as well as other measures to protect important coastal and marine habitats.

A main challenge in Abu Dhabi is "unplanned development projects with the associated dredging and land reclamation", he said. "We have a window of 10 years or so to protect what is still there."

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blue Carbon included in UN Oceans Compact

Blue carbon included in a new UN initiative to protect world’s oceans - under Objective 2 of The Oceans Compact; protecting, recovering and sustaining the oceans’ environment and natural resources and restoring their full food production and livelihoods services through:

  • Conserving and restoring marine habitats important for carbon sequestration and storage.


Secretary-General launches new initiative to protect world’s oceans

12 August 2012 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a new initiative to protect the oceans and the people whose livelihoods depend on it, and called on countries to work together to achieve a more sustainable management of this precious resource and address the threats it is currently facing.

“The seas and oceans host some of the most vulnerable and important ecosystems on Earth, but the diversity of life they host is under ever-increasing strain,” Mr. Ban said at an event in the city of Yeosu in the Republic of Korea (ROK), to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Convention, also known as the “constitution of the oceans,” governs all aspects of ocean space, from delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues. It was first opened for signature in 1982 and entered into force in 1994; there are 162 parties to it – 161 States and the European Union.

Mr. Ban praised the achievements of the Convention in helping countries establish a legal framework to guide the management of the oceans, the settlement of disputes, and the administration of the international seabed.

“Among its principles, the Law of the Sea recognizes that all ocean issues are related and that they need to be addressed as a whole,” Mr. Ban said, adding that this is in line with the development framework put forward at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

However, Mr. Ban also emphasized the need to address multiple issues that threaten the marine environment. To do this, he announced the launch of the Oceans Compact, which will seek to support and strengthen the implementation of the Law of the Sea.

“What we need is to create new momentum for ocean sustainability,” Mr. Ban said. “The Oceans Compact sets out a strategic vision for the UN System to deliver more coherently and effectively on its oceans-related mandates, consistent with the Rio+20 outcome.”

The Compact, Mr. Ban added, will provide a platform to help countries protect the ocean's natural resources, restore their full food production to help people's whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and increase awareness and knowledge about the management of the oceans.

To achieve the objectives of the Compact, Mr. Ban proposed a results-oriented Action Plan along with the creation of an Ocean Advisory Group made up of high-level policymakers, scientists and experts, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society.

During his visit, Mr. Ban also spoke to young people at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) youth forum, where he asked participants to practice solidarity among generations and lead the way in implementing sustainable measures in all aspects of society.

“From public squares to cyberspace, youth are a transformative force; you are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change,” Mr. Ban said. “A sustainable future can be ours. The work starts now, and it starts with you. This is a generational imperative… a generational opportunity… that your generation must seize.”

Story available here:

- Posted by Steven Lutz, Grid-Arendal

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blue Carbon Discussed

Colin Campbell on Blue Carbon

CBC All Points West | Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Colin Campbell, Sierra Club BC Science Advisor and Marine Campaign Coordinator, speaks about Blue Carbon on the August 2 2012 edition of CBC All Points West.

Stream available here:

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mangrove conservation is economic CO2 fix

BBC news report on recent Blue Carbon research

BBC news | Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 | by Nick Crumpton

Protecting mangroves to lock carbon away in trees may be an economic way to curb climate change, research suggests. Carbon credit schemes already exist for rainforests; the new work suggests mangroves could be included too. But other researchers say the economics depend on the global carbon price. Presenting their results in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the US-based team emphasises that protecting mangroves has important benefits for wildlife as well.

Dr Juha Siikamäki of the think tank Resources for the Future and his US colleagues have shown that protecting mangroves and thereby reducing the amount of CO2 released may be an affordable way for countries to mitigate their carbon emissions.

"We make the surprising finding that in most places, preserving mangroves is justified solely based on the avoided emissions, without any regard for the many other ecological and economic benefits mangroves are particularly well known for," Dr Siikamäki told BBC News.

The research, which used new high resolution surveys of global mangrove biomass, suggests that protecting these habitats could be a viable means for reducing emissions in comparison to other "carbon offset" methods.

"The bonus is that in doing so, we can preserve important habitats critical to coastal fisheries, rich in biodiversity, and home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, many of them endangered," co-author Professor James Sanchirico, from the University of California, Davis, said in a press statement.

But Freya Roberts, a researcher at fact-checking service The Carbon Brief, told BBC News that the price of carbon quoted - on which this research is based - might be out-dated.

"Since the research was conducted, carbon prices have dropped due to an over-supply of permits," she said.

Read the full story:


Juha Siikamäki, James N. Sanchirico, and Sunny L. Jardine (2012): Global economic potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from mangrove loss. PNAS

Download pdf

- posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Monday, August 6, 2012

Drone for Seagrass Assessment

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Performs Remote Sensing Assessment

PR Newswire | Monday, August 6th, 2012

BAT 4 UAV (Image Courtesy MBL Company)

MLB Company, a leader in low-cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) solutions, services and products, today announced it has concluded a high-resolution assessment of carbon dynamics in seagrass and coral reef biomes in partnership with the UAV Collaborative to better understand the dynamics of vulnerable near shore environments.

Over a 9-day period, MLB Bat 4 successfully flew six flights in Class G airspace in the area of Sugarloaf Key (7FA1) Airport in the Florida Keys. The Bat 4 captured nearly 3,700 images with a fully-integrated pre-testing multispectral camera system.

"Our mission to study the coral reefs will provide new insights into coastal region dynamics and develop new remote sensing technologies to serve as a guide for future aerial and satellite platforms," said Dr. Stanley R. Herwitz, Director of the UAV Collaborative (
- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal