Looking out onto a tranquil coastal marsh, many people would never guess that, beneath its windswept grasses, plants buried deep in the soil have captured and stored vast amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.

In the race to lessen the damage of climate change, this “blue carbon” held in the nation’s coastal ecosystems is a powerful ally. It incentivises restoration projects and can be traded on global carbon financial markets, which balance projects that feature emissions with contributions that take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Blue carbon also plays an important “green” role in the US Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which directs more than $12 billion dollars to advance carbon capture and removal projects.

NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves are leading the way on the blue carbon front, joined by partners across the public-private spectrum that include the non-profit Restore America’s Estuaries.

Research reserve leaders believe so much in applying blue carbon science that their Science Collaborative programme (co-led by the University of Michigan) has helped fund most of the projects described below. What’s more, NOAA’s land cover programme ensured that blue carbon is included in the US greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

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The following examples represent ongoing blue-carbon-related efforts throughout the research reserve system.

Reserve hosts carbon-offset “first” and mangrove restoration

  • Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles pro football team agreed to restore seagrasses and mangroves at NOAA’s Jobos Bay Research Reserve in Puerto Rico as a way to offset carbon emissions stemming from team travel. The Ocean Conservancy and The Ocean Foundation are project partners.
  • Another project, the Mangrove Coast Collaborative, has already begun to increase healthy mangrove forests at this reserve and the Rookery Bay Research Reserve in Florida. The collaborative solicits community input and then delivers maps, assessments, and decision-science insights.

Read more about NOAA’s blue carbon projects here.


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