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Why the Ocean's Blue Carbon Ecosystems are Important

Wave Tribe

In all my years of surfing, there have been many lessons that I have learned courtesy of the ocean. One of them is resilience.

Published by Wave Tribe

The ocean has a rich biodiversity and this helps weather out different crises that comes its way.

It’s a life skill that’s important because it has helped me ride out some gnarly waves over the years, and I don’t just mean the literal waves at Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca. Resiliency helped me maintain balance during stressful periods in my life.

Similarly, the ocean is also resilient. Like any living system, it has the capacity to weather out different crises due to the richness of the biodiversity living in its ecosystems. They stabilize and protect it from sudden variations in the environment.

One key attribute of its resiliency is the ocean’s blue carbon ecosystems. Here’s why they are important:

What is Blue Carbon?

Blue carbon is the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems.

I am referring to the mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and tidal marshes. These ecosystems regularly sequester and store large quantities of blue carbon in both the plants and the sediment. These large stores of carbon have been deposited by vegetation and various natural processes over centuries.

In fact, scientists have found out that these blue carbon ecosystems sequester and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. The ability of mangrove forests, for example, to remove more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere makes them significant net carbon sinks.

Mangrove forests can sequester and store large quantities of blue carbon.

Small but Awesome

And they are found everywhere except in Antarctica. True, coastal habitats are only 2% of the total ocean area and this makes them comparatively small relative to other ecosystems. But they are able to sequester and store globally significant amounts of carbon. For example, oceanic mangroves store almost three times as much carbon as tropical forests, particularly through soil and peat formation.

Unlike forest soil, carbon stored in coastal soil can remain trapped for long periods of time. This is because there is not enough oxygen in the environment to turn carbon into CO2. It has been estimated that as much as 20 gigatonnes of blue carbon can be stored, more than enough to make the ocean resilient against the negative effects of climate change like acidification and marine heatwaves.

They also perform important ecosystem services and benefits that are essential for climate change adaptation, including coastal protection and food security for many communities globally.

Threats

That’s why these blue carbon ecosystems should be protected. And yet worldwide, these habitats are being degraded or destroyed by pollution or the aquaculture industry.

For example, mangroves are being lost at a rate of 2% per year. Experts estimate that carbon emissions from mangrove deforestation account for up to 10% of emissions from deforestation globally, despite covering just 0.7% of land coverage.

Meanwhile, seagrass beds are being wiped out at about a rate of 1.5% per year. They may only cover less than 0.2% of the seafloor but they are able to store about 10% of the carbon that gets buried in the ocean each year. That’s a significant amount, and yet worldwide, they have already lost about 30% historic global coverage.

According to the Blue Carbon initiative, “as much as 1.02 billion tons of carbon dioxide are being released annually from degraded coastal ecosystems, which is equivalent to 19% of emissions from tropical deforestation globally.”

Mangroves are being lost at a fast rate and they should be protected.

We take the ocean for granted so much that we forget to respect it and keep it sustainable. Our coastal ecosystems are an important part of the ocean and yet we continue to spoil it with our plastic trash and infrastructure development. We have to keep our coasts clean and help protect the habitats in it.

— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder

Concerted Action

The good news is that there are now numerous evidence-based research that’s forcing policymakers to the realization that these ecosystems are very important elements in biodiversity preservation and climate protection.

The United Nations, for one, in its Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water) recognizes the importance of protecting coastal ecosystems. The public-private sector, meanwhile, has also implemented its own initiatives to protect these ecosystems.

One of these is monetizing the value of blue carbon for its potential for carbon emission credits.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions

Industries can offset their carbon emissions by supporting blue carbon areas which absorb carbon. Coastal communities could also be allowed to protect or rehabilitate wetlands to generate carbon credits.

And apparently, it’s simple. All one needs is just add water.

In an experiment, drained farmlands were flooded with water to turn it into marshlands. As silt accumulated and marsh plants began to grow, scientists monitored the plants and soil to see if they would automatically start collecting carbon from the atmosphere.

In six years, the newly created marshland captured 2,493 tonnes of carbon. That carbon sequestration could be valued at up to $124,650.

Promising, right?

Healing the Ocean

I’ve written about this before and I’ll repeat it again: the answer on how to mitigate climate change is really saving the ocean. It’s essential to a healthy ocean that its coastal habitats are protected and nurtured.

We take the ocean for granted so much that we forget to respect it and keep it sustainable. Our coastal ecosystems are an important part of the ocean and yet we continue to spoil it with our plastic trash and infrastructure development. We have to keep our coasts clean and help protect the habitats in it.

That’s why here in Wave Tribe, we’ve created our Heal the Ocean campaign. If you want to take a more active role in keeping these projects alive and responding to the crisis that our oceans are in, you can check out this list of projects and choose which ones to support. We’ve partnered with most of these organizations in some form or another in the past so we assure you that these are all pretty much legit.

But if you want to do something personal to help save the ocean, then consider using eco-friendly surfing gear and products when you go surfing. Here at Wave Tribe, we’ve made it our mission to create rad, stylish surf gear that’s made from sustainable resources and is non-toxic.

Whether you’re surfing near a mangrove forest in Ulu Watu, Bali, or chasing after a gnarly wave above a kelp forest in Northern Scotland, you’ll have a great time surfing without worrying about your carbon footprint.

And in case you need an awesome travel bag for your surfboard, check out our site.

 

More Wave Tribe Eco-Reads
At The Coral Triangle: Visiting North Sumatra's Underwater Reefs

Turning Up The Heat: What Marine Heat Waves Are Doing to the Ocean
Why Mangrove Swamps Are Important

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