Oceans May Trap more Carbon than Forests

by | Nov 17, 2009

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OceanEcosystemlossMarine ecosystems including seagrass meadows, mangroves and salt marshes have a much greater capacity to trap carbon than land carbon sinks such as forests, according to a report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The organization believes ocean ecosystems are essential to combating global warming.

The IUCN partnership report, The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks, indicates that quick global action is needed to protect coastal marine ecosystems due to a loss of two-thirds of seagrass meadows and 50 percent of mangrove forests caused by human activities, which is reducing their carbon storage capacity. The study says this loss is comparable to the decline of the Amazon forests.

The report offers policy guidelines about how to include management of marine carbon sinks in international and national reduction strategies. Approaches cited in the study include marine protected areas, marine spatial planning, area-based fisheries management techniques, regulated coastal development and ecosystem restoration.

Supporting IUCN’s report that the ocean is a valuable carbon sink, a paper from a group of scientists of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) indicates the newly exposed areas of sea, caused by the melting of several ice shelves in the Antartica, are soaking up more carbon gas, reports Google (via AFP).

The scientists estimate that the phytoplankton is absorbing 3.5 million tons of carbon, equivalent to 12.8 million ton of carbon dioxide (CO2), reports AFP. They say it is equivalent to the CO2-storing capacity of between 6,000 and 17,000 hectares (15,000 and 42,500 acres) of tropical rainforest, according to the paper, reports AFP.

As a result, these scientists believe it is important to factor in natural carbon absorption into calculations and models to predict future climate change, reports AFP.

But this is not to say it is entirely a good thing since the melting of ice shelves due to global warming adds to ocean’s volume, as noted by many scientists.

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