U.N. Report Says Blue Carbon Sinks Are Key

A report released Oct. 14 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stresses the importance of urgent action to maintain and restore marine ecosystems such as seagrass, mangroves and salt marshes (blue carbon sinks) as the key to combating climate change.

With the announcement, a call to action is being made for the restoration of the world's blue forests and blue carbon sinks to combat climate change and sea level rise. Florida-based Seagrass Recovery has been restoring seagrass meadows since 1996 and stands ready to meet this expected increase in the need for restoration of this important resource.

The report, “Blue Carbon: The Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon” was produced by three United Nations agencies and leading scientists. It found the ocean’s vegetative habitats (seagrass, mangroves and salt marshes) cover less than 1 percent of the seabed and equals less than 0 .05 percent of the biomass on land but store a comparable amount of carbon per year, ranking them among the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet, and unlike carbon that may be locked away for decades or centuries on land, blue carbon stored in the oceans remain for millennia.

Unfortunately, over 30 percent of seagrass meadows have been lost since the 1940s and the rate is accelerating according to the report, sponsored by UNEP, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. Seven percent of these “blue carbon sinks” are being lost annually – seven times the rate of loss of 50 years ago.

According to the report, “If more action is not taken to sustain these vital ecosystems, most may be lost within two decades,” thus the loss of all of the benefits these habitats provide, not just in battling climate change.

The report’s findings detail that the key element to combating climate change is the restoration of degraded seagrass meadows. Seagrass Recovery has spent the last 14 years developing innovative techniques and patented technologies to replant and restore damaged seagrass areas. The success of these methods have been scientifically evaluated and documented by National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Jeff Beggins, president and chief executive officer of Seagrass Recovery stated that, "We applaud this exciting realization that restoration projects focused on Seagrass habitats in our coastal zone no longer should happen, but must happen. Seagrass Recovery recognizes that through creating jobs in our coastal communities and restoring these valuable blue carbon sinks, we look forward to playing a significant role in the reversal of the issues facing our planet as we combat climate change and sea level rise while making our coastline more resilient."

Seagrass is the nursery of the ocean, providing habitat and sustenance for 70 percent of marine life; it has a direct correlation to water quality and provides protection for inshore coral reef ecosystems as well as the coastlines.

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