Coastal blue carbon ecosystems are environments that support mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses. They are prevalent along most coastlines in the world. The term ‘blue carbon’ recognises the ability of these ecosystems to capture and store large amounts of carbon in their soils, roots and plants making them a significant ‘carbon sink’.
Coastal blue carbon ecosystems provide essential breeding grounds for commercial fish, habitat for threatened marine species such as turtles and dugongs, feeding and staging grounds for migratory birds, and filter water flowing into our ocean and reef systems. They play a vital role in food security and sustaining coastal livelihoods, including by supporting fishing and tourism.
Coastal blue carbon ecosystems also provide a natural barrier that can reduce the impact of storm surges reducing coastal inundation, infrastructure damage and protecting coastal communities.
Scientific assessments show that blue carbon ecosystems can store two to four times more carbon per hectare and sequester it 30-50 times faster than terrestrial forests, and thereby can make a significant contribution to global action on climate change. Blue carbon ecosystems are recognised as an important nature-based solution to climate change.
Australia is considered a global ‘blue carbon hotspot’. Australia harbors about 12 per cent of the World’s blue carbon ecosystems, which hold about 7-12 per cent of global carbon stock. The seagrass meadows surrounding the coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef alone host an estimated 11 per cent of the world’s seagrass blue carbon.
The Australian Government recognises the importance of blue carbon ecosystems for climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and threatened species, disaster risk reduction and livelihoods of coastal communities.
With a view to conserve and restore blue carbon ecosystems, the Australian Government is supporting research, on-ground restoration projects, capacity building and global partnerships through various initiatives.
Snapshot of current activities supported by the Australian Government
- We are funding practical action to support restoration, conservation and accounting for blue carbon ecosystems in Australia and overseas, $30.6 million, 2020-2025.
- Australia leads the International Partnership for Blue Carbon with fifty partners from government agencies, non-governmental organisations, intergovernmental organisations and research institutions sharing a vision to protect, restore and sustainably manage global blue carbon ecosystems.
- Australia is one of only a few countries to progressively include coastal wetlands in international carbon accounting using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2013 Wetlands Supplement, and we deliver capacity building activities for developing countries on measurement, reporting and verification.
- Australia is planning the first national ocean ecosystem account, with a focus on coastal blue carbon ecosystems. This work will provide information on ecosystem extent and condition, and ecosystem services such as coastal protection and carbon sequestration.
- Australia led the development of resolutions adopted by Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to encourage global action for the protection and restoration of blue carbon wetland ecosystems.
- The Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program (NESP) funds environmental and climate research, with the NESP Marine and Coastal Hub supporting science for Australia’s marine and coastal environments, including blue carbon ecosystems, coast, reefs, shelf and deep-water.
- As part of the Emission Reduction Fund, Australia is developing a method for securing carbon credits for restoring blue carbon ecosystems from the reintroduction of tidal flows.
- Australia is supporting national climate action and livelihoods in Papua New Guinea and Fiji through enhanced mapping, measurement and accounting for blue carbon, demonstrating the viability of generating blue carbon offsets, and biodiversity and livelihood benefits to attract investments and exchanging knowledge and expertise between Australian Indigenous communities across the Pacific (Pacific Blue Carbon Program $6.3 million, 2018-2024).
- Australia is working with Indonesia to improve understanding and management of coastal blue carbon ecosystems for climate action and sustainable livelihoods (Indonesia Blue Carbon Program $2 million, 2019-2023)
- Australia is providing training to Sri Lankan scientists and collecting essential underpinning data to inform evidence-based policy to support the use of blue carbon ecosystems as a nature-based climate mitigation tool (Blue carbon for climate change mitigation and sustainable livelihoods in Sri Lanka $430,000, 2019-2022).
- Australia supports the IORA Indian Ocean Blue Carbon Hub which aims to build knowledge about and capacity in protecting and restoring blue carbon ecosystems throughout the Indian Ocean, in a way that enhances livelihoods, reduces risks from natural disasters, and helps mitigate climate change.
- Australia has launched the Blue Carbon Accelerator Fund to support the development of blue carbon restoration and conservation projects in countries outside Australia and help pave the way for private sector finance.
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