Oceans: The Secret to Mitigating Climate Change?
A recent study led by Dr. James Fourqurean of Florida International University, proposed that seagrass could be the oceans’ best-kept secret to mitigating global climate change. The study, “Seagrass Ecosystems as Globally Significant Carbon Stocks,” suggests that our coastal ecosystems can store equal or greater amounts of carbon than terrestrial ecosystems. Seagrass meadows can store up to twice as much carbon as the world’s forests.
However, according to Dr. James Fourqurean, seagrass meadows are among the world’s most threatened ecosystems. These coastal systems are being lost at an alarming rate. Approximately 2 percent of coastal systems are removed or degraded annually, which is four times the annual estimates of tropical forest loss.
While much attention has been placed on protecting terrestrial ecosystems such as the REDD program - United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Deregulation, the coastal ecosystems have not garnered as much awareness. No programs exist to protect a resource that currently stores as much as 73 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Our oceans represent the largest active carbon sinks on Earth as they absorb over a quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions. This research highlights the need for restoration of coastal systems to enable mangroves, seagrasses and tidal salt marshes to be restored and to continue to keep centuries of carbon in the ocean floor. We look forward to the expert opinions on the development of effective carbon management at Rio+20 later this month.