Are mangroves and seagrasses the key to net emissions reduction?

By Melissa Coade

Friday August 13, 2021

The CSIRO and BHP will attempt to measure the net emissions reduction potential of ‘blue carbon’
The CSIRO and BHP will attempt to measure the net emissions reduction potential of ‘blue carbon’ .(Brent/Adobe)

The CSIRO and BHP are undertaking a new research program that will attempt to measure and quantify the net emissions reduction potential of ‘blue carbon’ and restore Australia’s coastal ecosystems.

The $3.3 million research into ‘blue carbon’ potential, which includes mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes, also aims to show the value of other benefits these ecosystems offer coastal protection, fisheries and biodiversity.

According to CSIRO research scientist and project co-leader Dr Andy Steven, conserving and restoring blue carbon ecosystems could have positive effects on the environment and local communities. 

“Along with their ability to absorb high amounts of carbon dioxide, blue carbon ecosystems can reduce the impact from waves and storm surges and provide important habitat for many species of plants and animals, including some that support important recreational and commercial fisheries,” Steven explained.

“They are natural solutions to some of the most pressing problems the world faces.”

The CSIRO had adopted a co-investment model for the blue carbon project, which is one of several industry partnerships that the agency has entered to develop solutions for climate change. The findings of the work, and its tools, will be made publicly available to investors, project developers and communities.

Researchers from the CSIRO and other national universities will participate in the 30-month project in two streams and use satellite-based earth observation technology and computer modelling to estimate the blue carbon net emissions reduction potential.

The first research stream will focus on estimating blue carbon’s carbon abatement potential, while the second stream will develop ways of quantifying the additional benefits that accrue to fisheries, biodiversity and coastal risk reduction.

The CSIRO’s Dr Mat Vanderklift added that the research could play an important role in tackling the global crises of climate change and biodiversity. He explained this was because revenue from carbon offsets were insufficient to ‘fully fund restoration’ of the environment.

“Demonstrating the additional benefits that these projects bring can increase their value, helping them to become financially viable,” Vanderklift said. 

“That can make the difference between a project proceeding or not.”

BHP’s head of climate resilience Holly Buschman said the industry-science partnership project would lead to ‘good research outcomes’. 

“Our ultimate aim is to enable the restoration and protection of Australia’s coastal ecosystems,” Buschman said.


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