What is blue carbon?

Blue carbon is the term for carbon dioxide (CO 2) captured by and stored in coastal wetlands: mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and tidal marshes. These habitats are highly productive, providing food and shelter for a range of critical species, and many benefits to people. Despite their essential role, these ecosystems are in severe decline because of human-generated threats, including the climate crisis.

Mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes are currently the only marine habitats on which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides guidance for countries to incorporate into their national greenhouse gas inventories [1]. Other emerging blue carbon areas of interest include seaweed, phytoplankton, shellfish beds, seabed sediments, and marine fauna such as whales, invertebrates, and fish, which naturally accumulate and store carbon in their bodies by eating phytoplankton and other species. Although these plants, animals, and features are known as important carbon sinks, they are yet to be recognized in international climate policies or carbon reduction commitments [2].

The potential to tap into blue carbon as a climate solution is huge, but has been significantly underrepresented, which is why it’s at the heart of Only One’s action plan to restore ocean health and tackle climate change. You can learn more on their About page.

  1. IPCC Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Methodological Guidance on Lands with Wet and Drained Soils, and Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment. 2014. http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp.
  2. Lovelock C. E. & Duarte C. M. (2019), Dimensions of Blue Carbon and emerging perspectives. Biol Lett.,15:23955-26900. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0781.
About the author

Vasiliki I. Chalastani is a PhD candidate at the Laboratory of Harbour Works, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece. Her thesis, “Optimization Approaches for Marine Spatial Planning,” aims to develop tools for optimal use of the marine environment through reconciliation of human activities and conservation features. Previously, following her undergraduate studies as a civil engineer at NTUA, Chalastani pursued her MSc, “Water Air Pollution and Energy at Global and Regional Scales,” at École Polytechnique, Paris, France. While in France, she has completed an internship at the Laboratoire Océanographique de Villefranche and at École Normale Supérieure on ocean-based solutions. From 2018 to 2019, Chalastani acted as a consultant for the Alternate Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy of Greece, Nektarios Santorinios. In 2018, she worked for the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), Paris, with Alexandre K. Magnan, on the issue of climate change adaptation. In 2019, Chalastani worked for the Saudi Red Sea Project, developing a preliminary marine spatial planning initiative, under the supervision of Carlos M. Duarte. She is a member of the National Chamber of Engineers and the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN), Greece.