Environmental Protection

Panel to Consider Coastal Wetlands for Sequestration

Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) has convened a blue ribbon panel of experts to explore the role coastal wetlands play in sequestering greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The panel’s ultimate goal is to develop a national greenhouse gas offset protocol for wetland restoration projects. Marine and tidal wetland soils remove vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Composed of leaders in science, environmental engineering, public policy, and carbon offset investing, the panel is charged with examining the current state of knowledge and information gaps and developing accounting and monitoring guidance for carbon sequestration, through coastal wetland restoration projects.

Panel members include: Stephen Crooks [chair], Ph.D., director, Climate Change Services, Philip Williams and Associates, Ltd.; Derik Broekhoff, vice president for Policy, Climate Action Reserve; Tim Dillingham, executive director, American Littoral Society; Abe Doherty, project specialist, California Ocean Protection Council; Jette Findsen, program manager for Climate Change, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC); Patrick Megonigal, Ph.D., senior scientist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; Ken Newcombe, Ph.D., chief executive officer, C-Quest Capital; Bradley Raffle, chief executive officer, Conservation Capital, LLC; Eric T. Sundquist, Ph.D., research geologist, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); and Michael Wara, Ph.D., assistant professor, Stanford Law School, and Faculty Fellow, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development.

“Coastal wetlands store carbon, and the potential of restored and expanded tidal wetlands to sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide is tremendous," said Jeff Benoit, president and chief executive officer of Restore America's Estuaries. "This panel will help give us the keys to unlocking that potential, by creating a mechanism for attracting greenhouse gas offset investment into new and expanded wetlands restoration projects.”

According to Crooks, there have been numerous studies on wetland carbon sequestration in recent years. However, a lack of coordination and differing methodologies and monitoring techniques have hampered efforts to establish recognized baselines for wetland carbon sequestration. As a result, there are no nationally agreed upon standards for measuring the effectiveness of coastal habitat restoration projects in sequestering carbon.

Panel mandates include the development of recommendations for methodologies for:

  •  measuring greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration in tidal wetland habitats;
  • monitoring and verifying carbon sequestration and GHG flux in these habitats; and
  • establishing eligibility and performance standards for wetland-based GHG offset projects.

These methodologies are vital components for the creation of a credible and high-quality greenhouse gas offsets protocol that will attract public and private investment in wetlands restoration activities.

Sea-level rise, development, pollution, and other factors destroy approximately 58,000 acres of coastal wetlands in the United States every year. Scientists agree that tidal wetlands and estuaries are key components in ensuring biodiversity and coastal resiliency in the face of rising sea levels. Increased investment in wetlands protection and restoration gained through greenhouse gas offset markets will therefore provide an added benefit of helping vulnerable coastal areas adapt to the impacts of future climate change.

The current schedule calls for the release of the panel’s findings as part of its national report in spring 2010.

Founded in 1995, Restore America’s Estuaries is a national alliance of 11 regional, coastal conservation organizations with more than 250,000 volunteer-members dedicated to preserving the nation’s estuaries. RAE members include: the American Littoral Society, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Conservation Law Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Galveston Bay Foundation, North Carolina Coastal Federation, People for Puget Sound, Save The Bay-Narragansett Bay, Save The Bay-San Francisco, Save The Sound-a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Tampa Bay Watch.

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