Published online this week in PLOS ONE, the analysis provides the most comprehensive estimate of global carbon emissions from the loss of these coastal habitats to date: 0.15 to 1.2 billion tons. It suggests there is a high value associated with keeping these coastal-marine ecosystems intact as the release of their stored carbon costs roughly $6-$42 billion annually."On the high end of our estimates, emissions are almost as much as the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the world's fifth-largest emitter, Japan," said Brian Murray, director for economic analysis at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. "This means we have previously ignored a source of greenhouse gas emissions that could rival the emissions of many developed nations."
The critical role of these ecosystems for carbon sequestration has been overlooked, the study said. These coastal habitats could be protected and climate change combated if a system—much like what is being done to protect trees through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)—were implemented. Such a policy would assign credits to carbon stored in these habitats and provide economic incentive if they are left intact."Blue carbon ecosystems provide a plethora of benefits to humans: they support fisheries, buffer coasts from floods and storms, and filter coastal waters from pollutants," said Emily Pidgeon, senior director of Strategic Marine Initiatives at Conservation International and co-chair of the Blue Carbon Initiative. "Economic incentives to reverse these losses may help preserve these benefits and serve as a viable part of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and address climate change."
Erin McKenzie | EurekAlert!
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