Friday, 25 February 2011

Scientists start work under International Blue Carbon Working Group

Leading scientific experts in the field of coastal and marine biogeochemistry, carbon dynamics and ecology gathered in Paris (15-17 February 2011) to discuss the role of coastal and marine ecosystems in the global carbon cycle and for climate change mitigation. This 3-day workshop was organized by IUCN together with Conservation International and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, with additional financial support from NASA and UNEP.

Forests and other terrestrial ecosystems have long been accepted to play a vital role for the mitigation of increased anthropogenic- induced greenhouse-gases in the atmosphere. Initial efforts by IUCN have brought international attention to the role of mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes as important natural carbon sinks , and also identified a number of immediate coastal nature-based mitigation opportunities . Building on this, IUCN, IOC of UNESCO and CI established the international Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group to consider scientific research on the role of coastal vegetated ecosystems in carbon storage and sequestration.

At its first meeting in Paris, the working group sought to define a practically- applicable classification system for coastal carbon ecosystems, identify coastal carbon hotspots, and estimate possible emissions associated with the degradation of coastal ecosystems. The working group will, further develop recommendations for quantifying and monitoring carbon sequestration and loss in salt marshes, mangroves and seagrass beds, identifying indicators and methods, and prioritizing additional research.

Supported by Fondation Total, IUCN is also engaged in scientific research focusing on seagrass beds. While highly efficient in sequestering carbon, the actual amount of carbon stored in seagrass meadows is not known. Thus neither the ongoing nor the potential greenhouse gas emissions that may arise from further damage to these systems can be quantified reliably. At the same time the current global rate of seagrass loss is several times higher than loss of forests on land. In addition to supporting mitigation, this work aims to help secure the many other services seagrass meadows provide, by promoting sound management.

The working group will seek to inform coastal conservation and management guidelines that prioritize avoided loss as well as sequestration of coastal carbon deposits. Furthermore, the outcomes of this scientific working group will inform the ongoing climate change debate by providing scientific advice that can support the inclusion of coastal and marine systems into national carbon accounting and the use of conservation and restoration practices as a viable mitigation strategy under climate regulation policies.

A second workshop is planned for the third quarter 2011.