Between meadows and tides

Written by Felipe Jiménez Pastrana, Climate Change Mitigation Consultant.

The carbon emissions into the atmosphere is a major driver of climate change, and blue carbon ecosystems contain high carbon stocks. This is because, unlike terrestrial ecosystems, carbon stored in the coastal soil in ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses and marshes can remain trapped for long periods of time. For example, a given area of mangrove forest or seagrass can store up to 10 times more carbon than the same area of land-based forest.

Seagrasses are among the most threatened and ignored ecosystems on the planet due to pressures from coastal degradation, acidification of seas and oceans, and variations in temperature caused by climate change. These underwater flowering plants form dense meadows in shallow areas along the coasts. Their long, narrow, green leaves are temporary and permanent habitat for a variety of fish, turtles, starfish, shrimp, cucumbers, anemones, epiphytic seaweed, crabs, sea urchins, and snails, and form the basis of food webs in other estuarine and coastal environments such as manatees, turtles, and seabirds.

The environmental services that these ecosystems provide are of enormous relevance: they reduce the impact of waves by stopping strong currents; they increase sedimentation, produce oxygen and cleans seas and oceans by absorbing polluting nutrients that travel from land to sea (improve water quality); their roots and rhizomes stabilize the seafloor substrate, and also prevent coastal erosion and provide food sources for local communities.

Taking its importance given the environmental services that they provide and as a sensitive ecosystem, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) proposed a conservation-preservation structure through programs based on its enormous capacity to absorb carbon, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and ocean acidification. UNEP also stresses that the most important function of seagrasses is to capture 10 percent of the carbon stored in the oceans, because even though they occupy only 0.2 percent of the world’s seabed, they retain carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical forests.

Seagrasses are a source of opportunities to mitigate climate change, adapt to future changes, increase resilience, and provide multiple additional social benefits. We must act now to protect seagrasses by prioritizing timely, ambitious, and coordinated action in the areas of conservation, sustainable management, and restoration. ALLCOT, as a leading organization in projects aimed at climate change mitigation and environmental protection, would succeed in aligning its blue carbon actions and initiatives with programs that focus on the conservation and protection of seagrasses and the sustainable development of local populations.

These ecosystems represent, as mentioned, a potential to support vulnerable communities living in coastal areas. Therefore, protecting these ecosystems would lead to the conservation of the diverse ecosystem services they provide and to a strengthening of sustainable development in local communities. Furthermore, it would support the development of key species and populations for the maintenance of marine food chains.

ALLCOT has the potential, the motivation, and the tools for the development of these innovative projects. It means a global challenge that ALLCOT would be able to assume and lead.

The development and acceptance of governments to carry out projects with emphasis on the conservation of sea grass ecosystems, would mean the support at national level of the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions and provide accompaniment and support in the adaptation process of local communities. This would also be linked to the continuous improvement of the indicators defined by the 2030Agenda Sustainable Development goals and objectives.