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Story Map: Blue Carbon

If the world is to decisively deal with climate change, every source of emissions and every option for reducing these should be scientifically evaluated and brought to the international community’s attention. Oceans and ocean ecosystems play a critical role in maintaining our climate and in assisting policy makers to mainstream an oceans agenda into national and international climate change initiatives.

Blue Carbon is carbon captured by the world’s oceans, representing more than 55% of the green carbon (captured by plants). The carbon captured by living organisms in oceans is stored in the form of sediments from mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses. It does not remain stored for decades or centuries (like for example rainforests), but rather for millennia.

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Vegetated coastal habitats – mangrove forests, salt-marshes and seagrass meadows – have much in common with rain forests: they are hot spots for biodiversity, they provide important and valuable ecosystem functions, including a large carbon sink capacity, and they are experiencing a steep global decline (Duarte et al., 2008, Duarte, 2009).

However, whereas society is well informed of the benefits and threats associated with rainforests, there is a comparative lack of awareness on the status and benefits of vegetated coastal habitats. This is perhaps because of a “charisma” gap, where these often submerged, out of sight coastal habitats, are not as appealing to the public as their terrestrial counterparts (Duarte et al., 2008). Yet, because of their similar functions and threats, coastal habitats can be considered as blue carbon sinks.