Get Regular Updates!
Search
|Fighting global warming with blue carbon

Earth

Fighting global warming with blue carbon

Beneath the waters of Australia, plants are helping fight climate change.

Fighting global warming with blue carbon

Breathe deeply. All that lovely oxygen you’re getting right now was recycled somewhere by plants (and plankton). But it’s not just the land-based plants responsible for restoring Earth’s oxygen supply—marine plants also play an important role.

Mangroves, seagrasses and inhabitants of salt marshes are just some of the plants responsible for creating something called blue carbon. But this important part of underwater ecology looks more brown and green than a pretty aqua hue.

Image|Giphy
Land plants are not the only ones we need to take care of.

Cracking down on carbon

It works like this: marine plants capture carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, just like their terrestrial siblings. The plants transform the carbon into carbohydrates, which are then used by the plant to grow stems, leaves and flowers. When the plant dies, the carbon locked in its tissues is trapped, stored underground.

Mat Vanderklift, a marine ecologist at CSIRO, says because this trapped carbon is waterlogged, very little oxygen gets to it and it cannot decompose. The carbon can remain trapped much more efficiently than land-based carbon traps, like trees.

View Larger
Image|Phil’s 1stPix
Mangrove ecosystems trap carbon underwater as roots, stems, leaves and flowers

This removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising, causing global warming, and human-caused carbon dioxide is the largest contributor.

Australia and many other countries around the world are looking at how we can harness blue carbon to help combat global warming.

Mat is researching how Australia can create a blue carbon economy.

A blue carbon economy is a model where businesses can pay to support renewing wetlands and coasts to help prevent environmental damage. It can help make a business environmentally ethical and balance out its own carbon emissions. For certain businesses like fisheries, blue carbon economies can even help secure their future.

“In salt marshes, seagrasses and mangroves, the carbon is stored underground,” Mat says.

"They dig their roots in deep, and because the carbon is underground, it takes a long time to decompose. That carbon is trapped there, and it doesn’t enter the atmosphere.”

These marine ecosystems are such great carbon catchers they can be more effective than rainforests in cleaning our atmosphere of carbon dioxide.

The mangrove disappearing act

Unfortunately, while we’re pumping more carbon dioxide into the air than ever before, we’re also losing vast swathes of our blue carbon ecosystems.

The world has lost 50% coverage of its tidal marshes and mangroves in the past 10 years alone. Deforestation, farming, construction and climate change all contribute to these losses. What’s more, when we lose the mangroves and marshes, the carbon trapped by these plants can re-enter the atmosphere.

It’s not all bad news though. Scientists like Mat and the general public are all getting together to bring back these marine ecosystems.

50% of the world’s mangrove coverage has been lost in the past 10 years
. Credit: Mat Vanderklift
View Larger
Image |

Mat Vanderklift

50% of the world’s mangrove coverage has been lost in the past 10 years
Mat’s team are replenishing our blue carbon ecosystems
. Credit: Mat Vanderklift
View Larger
Image |

Mat Vanderklift

Mat’s team are replenishing our blue carbon ecosystems

“If all you want to do is trap carbon, well that’s easy to upscale. But that’s often not all we want to do. We want to replenish fish stocks or increase biodiversity and bring back the plants and animals that used to live in these ecosystems,” Mat says.

Bringing back mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses also helps bring back animals that call these ecosystems home.

Stopping the great ocean grab

This is particularly good news for coastal communities that rely on fishing for food and work. Mat says working with these coastal communities is a vital part of making sure replenished marine environments survive.

“The old colonial way doesn’t work. We can’t just go in and tell people what to do. We have to start conversations with them so they understand the benefits to their communities.”

By working with local communities, we can clean the air, restore our ecosystems and increase available fish for local communities.

Tracking WA Science VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?