How can marine forests
help combat climate change?
an eelgrass meadow
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Rotate your phone to enter the world of Blue Carbon...
This is called a
Seagrass grows in sandy sediments,
in shallow coastal waters all around the world.
There are large sandy seagrass meadows
along the coasts of Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.
…the seafloor grows and carbon is trapped and buried...
…locking away carbon and
offsetting sea level rise.
As the debris builds up...
Research shows that marine forests like these, store just as much carbon as forests on land...
Seagrass traps particles
that contain carbon...
…as they fall to the seafloor.
…and the larger the forest,
the more blue carbon can be stored.
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They also trap fallen seagrass leaves and roots.
...and more research is needed to know exactly how much carbon they store.
When kelps become lose they begin to float.
In the Nordics, rocky kelp forests are found along the coast of Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands...
Some kelp have tiny air sacks along their leaves to keep them afloat at the surface of the ocean...
Others are carried along by water currents in the water column...
…others are simply carried along by ocean currents in the water column.
Kelps and other large algae, called macroalgae,
grow on rocky seabeds.
…although many of them are not fully mapped...
Scientists now know that these previously overlooked carbon sinks could be vast.
The carbon contained in the plant is buried and locked away at the seafloor.
Eventualy, they sink to the seabed, often in the deep ocean.
Blue Carbon is a part of the Paris Agreement
Each year, countries report the amount of carbon they have emitted. Many countries now include blue carbon in their inventory to offset their carbon emissions.
But they only include seagrass, saltmarsh, and mangroves, as scientists only recently discovered that kelp are also a significant Blue Carbon sink.
What is blue carbon?
Marine forests capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it away in the ocean. This is called “blue carbon.”
Research shows that marine forests store just as much carbon as forests on land and they can accumulate carbon at a much faster rate.
But more research is needed to work out precisely how much blue carbon they could remove from the atmosphere.
A recent study* calculated that forests of kelp and other macroalgae may lock away up to 173 Teragrams of carbon each year.
That is the same amount of carbon locked away by seagrass, saltmarsh, and mangroves combined.
But more research is needed to map the full distribution of marine forests and to work out precisely how much carbon they could remove and keep out of the atmosphere.
Krause-Jensen & Duarte, 2016
How can you help to make blue carbon a reality?
1. Become a citizen scientist: Help scientists to map marine forests online or by downloading an app2. Promote marine forests: Take pictures and share with your friends and family to let everyone know about these ecosystems3. Protect your local marine forest: Don’t anchor your boat in seagrass meadows4. Clean up the beach: Marine forests like good quality, clear water!5. Eat green sea-urchins: They graze on kelp forests and pose a significant threat if they become too abundant
Marine forests protect the coast from storms
Besides storing blue carbon, marine forests can also help protect our coasts.
Marine forests buffer against waves, protecting the coast from erosion.
Both seagrass meadows and kelp forests offer a natural barrier and protection from storms.
Marine forests are a refuge for sea life
Besides storing blue carbon, marine forests can also help combat ocean acidification.
Marine forests can extract carbon dioxide from the water and create oases of high pH during the summer.
This can protect organisms with carbonate shells, including mussels, snails, and shrimps, from increasingly acidic oceans.
Use the buttons in this interactive guide to explore how marine forests can help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Read more about blue carbon in the Nordics at:
Graphics and animations by Catherine Jex for ScienceNordic.com. Text by Catherine Jex, based on an article by Dorte Krause-Jensen, Carlos Duarte, and Helene Frigstad for ScienceNordic.com. Vector graphics from www.vecteezy.com.