Blue carbon accounts for 55% of all the carbon captured in the world: more carbon is captured in the marine environment than on land. (Source: Nellemann et al, United Nations Environment Program
Responses to climate change in Australia have so far overlooked the role of oceans and coasts, according to one of the international pioneers of citizen science, Brian Rosborough, Founder of Earthwatch.
"Coastal vegetation and oceans which account for 55% of all the carbon captured in the world should be a part of the climate change conversation."
"Vegetated coastal habitats provide vital ecosystem functioning and can act as large carbon sinks but they are experiencing a steep global decline, up to four times faster than rainforests."
Mr Rosborough said, "this issue is particularly relevant to Australia as it has over 35,000 km of coastline, the mangrove flora of Australia is one of the world's most diverse, and it covers about 18 per cent of the coastline."
Australia has the world's most diverse array of tropical and temperate seagrasses. Australia hosts more than half of the world's 60 species and 11 of the world's 12 genera of seagrasses, with about 51,000 square kilometres of seagrass meadows, with Shark Bay in Western Australia home to the world's largest sea grass bed.
"Unlike carbon capture and storage on land, where the carbon may be locked away for decades or centuries, that stored in the oceans remains for millennia" Mr Rosborough said.
"It is vital that scientific research into the oceans is translated into actions to protect the health of coastal vegetation and oceans.
Earthwatch Executive Director Richard Gilmore said a coordinated scientific approach to understanding and conserving mangrove forests across Australia and Asia would provide enormous environmental, economic and social benefits.
"Not only do mangroves store vast amounts of carbon, they provide vital habitats for threatened species, protect people from rising seas and storm surges and provide livelihoods for millions of the world's most vulnerable people".
Mr Brian Rosborough founding chairman of Earthwatch Institute was in Australia to celebrate the organisation's 40th birthday at their Oceania Gala on August 10th in Melbourne.
A recognised visionary on promoting scientific research to track changes in the climate for over four decades Mr Rosborough said, "community involvement with scientific research was one of the most powerful keys to progress the international climate change conversation".
Oceans play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Not only do they represent the largest long-term sink for carbon but they also store and redistribute CO2. Some 93% of the earth's CO2 (40 Tt) is stored and cycled through the oceans.* * Source: Nellemann et al, United Nations Environment Program. Earthwatch: www.earthwatch.org