Blue Carbon: An Oceanic Opportunity to Fight Climate Change


Mangroves, salt marshes and sea grasses soak up to five times more carbon than tropical forests, making their conservation critical

Blue Carbon - MIGHTY MANGROVE

MIGHTY MANGROVE: Mangroves, salt marshes and sea grasses soak up five times more carbon than tropical forests Image: ©iStockphoto.com / Sara Winter

Mangroves are tangled orchards of spindly shrubs that thrive in the interface between land and sea. They bloom in muddy soil where the water is briny and shallow, and the air muggy. Salt marshes and sea grasses also flourish in these brackish hinterlands. Worldwide, these coastal habitats are recognized for their natural beauty and ability to filter pollution, house fish nurseries and buffer shorelines against storms.

Less known is their ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon—up to five times that stored in tropical forests. Dubbed “blue carbon” because of their littoral environment, these previously undervalued coastal carbon sinks are beginning to gain attention from the climate and conservation communities.

More (Click here) Robynne Boyd, Scientific American

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2 Responses to Blue Carbon: An Oceanic Opportunity to Fight Climate Change

  1. rogerthesurf says:

    Alan,

    Did you ever consider this fact which would apply to mangroves as well as any other type of natural forest.

    It is true that a forest absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and gives out oxygen.

    However when each particular tree both sheds its leaves and eventually dies, that CO2 is returned to the atmosphere.
    Therefore it is easy to see that a mature forest would be largely at equilibrium. The growing trees generally absorbing CO2 but the detrius and dying trees returning the CO2 to the atmosphere as they decay. Therefore the net sequestration of CO2 of a forest ends when the forest is mature. We do not get ongoing sequestration, but only as much that is proportional to the total volume of timber undecayed in the forest.

    I think this is easy to understand.

    Therefore planting mangroves, would absorb co2 for a little while but no more than the total volume of timber actually grown.

    Makes one think a little differently right?

    Actually we get better sequestration rate on plantation timber when the timber is used for houses etc. So long as the houses stay whole.

    Cheers

    Roger

    http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

    • Alan Burke says:

      Thanks Roger for your comment. I think that it comes down to a difference between transient and steady-state. Given a harvested forest (or any other biologic area), replacement by “natural” methods establishes that equilibrium, which we enjoyed for thousands of years and the life-cycle is typically decades or centuries.

      If a carbon absorber is cut down and not replaced by self-regeneration, then we have short term gain for long term pain.

      If the replacement crop is less effective in absorbing CO2 then we have a net equilibrium loss.

      There’s no doubt that I have oversimplified but while we cut down forests (etc.) without letting them regenerate, things are not in happy equilibrium for the most part.

      Sequestration in building materials is, I guess, the ancient CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) but if the forest does not regenerate, there’s a net loss.

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