Glossary

Blue Carbon 101

Blue Carbon 101

Blue Carbon 101


by: David Chen and Daniel Frasca | September 29, 2022

 

tidal marsh september's blogBlue carbon includes important coastal and marine ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows, and tidal marshes.

What is Blue Carbon?

On the fringes of Earth’s continents lies one of nature’s greatest climate regulation mechanisms: vast reserves of organic carbon known as blue carbon. “Blue carbon” refers to the organic carbon captured and stored in coastal and marine ecosystems and can be used to refer to the marine habitats that sequester and store carbon dioxide.

The United Nations first used the term “blue carbon” in a 2009 report that recognized the critical role some coastal and marine ecosystems play in drawing down carbon from the atmosphere. The United Nations Framework Committee on Climate Change defines blue carbon as mangroves, seagrass meadows, and tidal marshes. As the field of blue carbon grows, additional ecosystems will likely be recognized as blue carbon, a topic we will discuss in an upcoming blog.

As of late, blue carbon has become a hot topic due to the immense capacity of these ecosystems to draw down atmospheric carbon levels and provide irreplaceable ecosystem services.

Big Mangrove September BlogThe intricate root systems of mangroves on the Indonesian island of Nias provide protection from storm surge and coastal erosion for local communities.

Blue Carbon as a Climate Solution

What makes coastal and marine ecosystems different than their terrestrial equivalents? After all, aren’t all plants capable of sequestering carbon? While that may be true, blue carbon ecosystems can capture 10-50 times more carbon per unit than their land-dwelling counterparts. In fact, every year, blue carbon ecosystems bury underground a comparable amount of carbon as terrestrial forests despite occupying less than 3% of the global forest area. The open ocean is also no match for the carbon-capturing powers of coastal blue carbon ecosystems. For reference, coastal habitats represent about 2% of the oceans’ surface area yet are responsible for nearly 50% of carbon sequestered in marine sediments. These blue carbon ecosystems, nestled between the endless ocean and vast landmasses, represent a thin slice of Earth working overtime to regulate the climate.

Fisherman September BlogLocal Indonesian fisherman sourcing fish and shellfish in a pristine blue carbon ecosystem

How Blue Carbon Ecosystems Sequester Carbon

Coastal habitats capture carbon more effectively than their terrestrial counterparts due to their higher efficiency in converting solar energy into organic matter – often described as a high primary productivity rate. More importantly, blue carbon ecosystems trap sediment and organic matter such as leaf litter in their roots and allow that carbon to accumulate in the seabed. This process is known as “sedimentation” and accounts for 50 – 90% of all the carbon sequestered in these coastal ecosystems.

This ability to store carbon underground in soils and sediment is one of blue carbon’s most unique and essential functions. Aboveground biomass, such as the trees in a forest, will sequester and store carbon over its lifetime. However, at the end of the tree’s lifecycle, the tree will die and release carbon back into the atmosphere during the decomposition process. In contrast, belowground carbon sequestered by blue carbon ecosystems can remain undisturbed for hundreds or even thousands of years. A prime example is a seabed meadow off the coast of Spain that has accumulated over a 35-foot-thick carbon deposit over the span of 6,000 years. The stable and enduring nature of these reserves is created by the seabed’s saltwater and oxygen-deprived conditions, which slow the pace of decomposition and effectively trap carbon underground. Belowground carbon also represents a more resilient store of carbon stock as it is insulated against natural disturbances, such as fire and heavy rainfall, which are expected to become more frequent and intense as the climate continues to warm. Not only can carbon stored underground reduce the symptoms of the climate crisis, but it can also endure the worst effects of climate change.  

Pretty Landscape September's BlogMangrove restoration site at a local village in Aceh, Indonesia

Beyond Carbon

For the people connected to these ecosystems, the benefits of blue carbon extend far beyond combating climate change. Blue carbon habitats provide extensive benefits to biodiversity, local communities, and the millions of people dependent on them for their food supply. Aquatic plants found in these coastal blue carbon environments provide the shelter, nutrients, and water filtration services on which aquatic animals depend- simply put, many forms of animal life cannot survive without these foundational habitats. Flourishing coastal habitats increase food security and provide coastal communities with fishery and ecotourism opportunities. Mangroves and tidal marshes mitigate coastal erosion and insulate coastal communities from storm surges during extreme weather events. It’s been estimated that the annual value of the ecosystem services provided by blue carbon habitats hovers around $190 billion.

The world’s blue carbon ecosystems have a fundamental role in addressing climate change. Focusing our attention on the conservation and restoration of these precious ecosystems will have an immense impact in returning life to coastal waters and uplifting surrounding communities.

 


About the Authors

David Chen is passionate about nature-based solutions and developing carbon offset projects that protect and restore native ecosystems. From replanting bald cypress trees in the Mississippi River delta to reestablishing mangroves forests in international countries, David understands the positive impact these projects have on biodiversity, coastal resiliency and improving local livelihoods. David is a Program Development Manager at ClimeCo and has a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and received his Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Riverside.  

Daniel Frasca is an Associate on the Program Development Team specializing in nature-based solutions. He joined the team with previous business development, finance, and sales experience in the residential solar industry and leadership experience in the nonprofit sector. Daniel earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Boston College, with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Environmental Studies.

ClimeCo Partners with Enaleia to Establish a Verra Plastic Collection Project in Kenya

ClimeCo Partners with Enaleia to Establish a Verra Plastic Collection Project in Kenya

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
CONTACT
Nancy Marshall, Vice President, Marketing
484.415.7603 or nmarshall@climeco.com  

ClimeCo Partners with Enaleia to Establish a Verra Plastic Collection Project in Kenya

CC & Enaleia PR

Boyertown, Pennsylvania (September 14, 2022) – 
ClimeCo, a leader in the management and development of environmental commodities, has partnered with Enaleia to remove plastic pollution from vital fishing areas. Enaleia is a non-profit that engages coastal communities to collect plastic on land and in the ocean to reduce pollution and improve marine biodiversity conservation. This partnership will support Enaleia’s newest project in Kenya, contributing to the generation of plastic credits through Verra. With additional funding from ClimeCo and the sale of the credits, Enaleia estimates they will collect 1,000-3,000 tonnes of plastic annually in Kenya.

“A plastic credit is an environmental commodity that represents the collection or recycling of one tonne of plastic material, which can be used in companies’ ESG, CSR, and sustainability programs,” says Chris Parker, ClimeCo’s Director of Plastic Program. “Our approach is to create a system solution to the ocean plastic challenge.”

Enaleia, along with other professional entities that are experts in sustainable development, are collaborating with ClimeCo and the Kwale Recycling Center in Kenya to make sure that the plastic will not only be collected but also integrated into the circular economy.

The Kenya project supports over 350 fishers in Kwale County by empowering them to collect abandoned nets, gear, and marine litter. This number will increase to 800 people from the coastal communities in the following months. The waste is then taken to Kwale Recycling Center, a local collection and recycling company that transports and processes it into useful materials and products.

“Through the plastic credit model, we can set up large-scale plastic cleanup projects that can create a real impact on our oceans,” says Lefteris Arapakis, Enaleia’s Co-Founder and Director. “Taking into consideration that around 20% of ocean plastic is lost fishing gear, by empowering the fishing communities at this scale, we can not only clean up significant amounts of plastic but also prevent further ocean plastic pollution.”

This project incentivizes and encourages the fishing community to use more sustainable fishing practices, including the reduction of overfishing by pausing and limiting their fishing activities while collecting plastic. It also provides a supplemental source of income to an area experiencing some of the highest poverty rates in the country.

To learn more about plastic credits and this project, contact us



About ClimeCo

ClimeCo is a respected global advisor, transaction facilitator, trader, and developer of environmental commodity market products and related solutions. We specialize in voluntary carbon, regulated carbon, renewable energy credits, plastics credits, and regional criteria pollutant trading programs. Complimenting these programs is a team of professionals skilled in providing sustainability program management solutions and developing and financing of GHG abatement and mitigation systems.


About Enaleia

Enaleia is a non-profit social enterprise tackling two directly related problems for the marine environment: the reduction of fish stocks and plastic sea pollution. Its mission is to make the marine ecosystem sustainable by tackling overfishing and plastic pollution. Enaleia teaches fishing practices that preserve local fish populations and remove the mounds of plastic that pollute the world’s seas, adapting the fishing industry for a green future.