Seagrass: the fish, seahorse, sea turtle, manatee habitat that takes up carbon and protects us from storms!
Seagrasses are flowering plants that grow in shallow waters along coasts, lagoons and estuaries. Seagrass meadows can be found along the coasts of every continent except for Antarctica and over a billion people live within 30 miles of a meadow. They are essential as habitat and food for marine mammals, provide protection from shoreline erosion, filter water from pollution, support tourism, food security, commercial and recreational fishing and act as a carbon sink. However, seagrass meadows are being destroyed at an alarming rate by human activities such as boating and dredging.
Seagrasses occupy 0.1% of the seafloor, yet are responsible for 11% of the organic carbon buried in the ocean, storing it in the plants themselves and the sediment below them. As habitats such as tidal wetlands and seagrass meadows are impacted by the changing climate, they release massive amounts of stored carbon that further contributes to climate change. In fact, the ocean, in the form of dissolved carbonic acid, absorbs much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While this is a natural part of the ocean’s carbon cycle, today’s increased levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases are actually changing the chemistry of the ocean. The resulting acidification harms virtually all marine life at a physiological level, particularly calcifying organisms such as crustaceans, mollusks, and corals. In the worst-case scenario, ocean acidification could lead to a collapse of the entire marine food chain, and thus the ocean ecosystem as a whole.
The Ocean Foundation created the SeaGrass Grow! campaign to protect and restore seagrass habitats and provide voluntary opportunities to naturally offset greenhouse gas emissions in the ocean – known as “Blue Carbon.”
Blue carbon can be quantified and its economic value can be calculated, similar to how forests are currently traded as carbon credits. The revenue from a blue carbon credit mechanism can then be used to fund restoration efforts, which in turn generate more credits. The Ocean Foundation launched its innovative Blue Carbon Calculator in early 2013. In just a few steps, the calculator will allow you to calculate your annual individual/family or company/organization CO2 emissions; we then calculate the amount of blue carbon necessary to fully offset those emissions (acres of seagrass to be restored or equivalent). Currently, blue carbon offsets are in the process of being certified via VCS Methodology for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration. The final approval by VCS is expected in late fall of 2014.
Thus, The Ocean Foundation will, in the future, offer real and permanent emissions offsets that are credible, and carbon sequestration that is verifiable. Presently The Ocean Foundation is “banking” the square kilometers of restoration in anticipation of certification, and, thus will also have developed a network of demonstration projects. Ultimately, The Ocean Foundation plans to take this concept to scale and provide a credible source of well-quantified and well-monitored blue carbon credits.
In conjunction with our work to restore lost and damaged seagrass meadows, The Ocean Foundation also works to preserve blue carbon across the globe. The Ocean Foundation hosts the Blue Climate Coalition, which seeks enhanced international recognition of the opportunities to certify carbon credits in coastal carbon ecosystems, and facilitate the inclusion of the carbon value of coastal ecosystems in the accounting of ecosystem services.
By donating to the SeaGrass Grow! campaign or purchasing voluntary blue carbon credits you will be joining our community that cares about our coasts and ocean and be making a positive impact for our blue planet.