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Blue carbon in UK waters

Posted on Saturday, January, 22nd, 2022

Blue carbon presents a climate change mitigation opportunity that has inspired the hearts and minds of many.  Blue carbon relates to carbon that is sequestered and/or stored in marine ecosystems.  Marine ecosystems are home to the largest scale carbon sequestering processes on the planet. 

The largest daily drawdown of CO2 comes from an unexpected source: plankton (a microscopic marine algae).  Plankton at the surface of the ocean draws in CO2 whilst creating oxygen and glucose (via photosynthesis).  This process sparks the biggest daily migration on earth where copepods (small crustaceans) along with a wide web of marine life, rise from the deep ocean to feed on this plankton.  The carbon-rich plankton is ingested, and then transported back down to the ocean depths.  Much of this carbon is then stored in the deep ocean environment for 1000s of years.

Harnessing the incredible scale of oceanic processes to wield as a climate change mitigation tool is being sought out by many scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses, and investors.

Here in the UK, we are blessed with 7723 miles of coastline – home to carbon rich sub-aquatic ecosystems including kelp forests, seagrass beds, oyster reefs, mearl beds and more. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems presents an opportunity to support biodiversity and work to counter anthropogenic emissions. 

The Saltmarsh Code

There is work ongoing in the UK now to develop a Saltmarsh Code (to sit alongside the Woodland Carbon Code and Peatland Code) as a blue carbon ecosystem in the UK from which to derive carbon credits - so driving carbon market funding into coastal ecosystem restoration. Areas of saltmarsh habitat have historically been blocked off from the sea and drained, in order to create more agriculturally productive land or for coastal developments.

Funding from the voluntary carbon market could be directed to land managers looking to restore ecological functioning to these areas by installing sluices and allowing the ocean to re-enter these areas. 

Scientists are collating data from 27 pilot schemes across the UK in order to build a pragmatic approach to quantifying the carbon storage services of saltmarshes.  Co-benefits include their value for biodiversity, reducing coastal erosion & impacts of sea level rise and mitigating storm surge flooding.  Salt Marshes are valuable habitats for migratory birds, waders and geese whilst also playing an important role as breeding grounds of fish species like sea bass.

If any blue carbon projects are looking for carbon finance and the support of the voluntary carbon market, get in touch to discuss.

By Madeleine Wild, Project Manager


Sources

https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2018/Dec-Jan/Animals/Vertical-Migration

https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/unlocking-billion-pound-investment-restoration-saltmarshes

For a deep dive, here is a 15 minute talk on ocean/climate interaction from Dr Howard Dryden, GOES Foundation:


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