Seagrasses could be the oceans’ best-kept secret for mitigating global climate change, according to a study published this week in Nature Geoscience.
Seagrass meadows act as a massive carbon sink, capable of storing as much carbon as forests. Problem is that, due to poor watershed management and declining water quality near shorelines, seagrasses are disappearing at alarming rates.
James Fourqurean, a professor of biochemistry at Florida International University’s Department of Biological Sciences, has devoted his career to seagrass research; and recently completed a study with a team of scientists from across the world that provides the first global analysis of carbon stored in seagrass.
Fourqurean explains that seagrass helps protect our coastlines, provide habitat for the seafood we eat, and keep our water clear. They were valuable before we knew of the carbon stored in them. The potential for the world’s seagrassses to be used as carbon offset credits is an initiative referred to as Blue Carbon.
A carbon credit is a generic term for any tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide. Carbon credits are part of national and international efforts to mitigate the growth of greenhouse gases by capping emissions and allowing regulated sources to emit greenhouse gases to buy credits for emissions. The money is used to preserve the world’s resources that naturally store carbon dioxide.
The United Nations’ REDD program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) already exists to protect the Earth’s forests; but seagrass meadows are capable of storing as much carbon dioxide as any forest. Currently, there could be as much as 73 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide already being stored in the world’s seagrass meadows.
“Professor Fourqurean’s work offers a realistic, viable solution for a global problem and could help mitigate the effects of global climate change,” said Kenneth G. Furton, dean of the FIU’s College of Arts & Scienes.
In the past year, Fourqurean has made presentations in Wasthingon, D.C. as well as in France, Indonesia, Australia, and Costa Rica. Recently, he testified before the European Union Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on the importance of the carbon stored in coastal ecosystems for climate change mitigation. Fourqurean conducts his researcdh as part of FIU’s National Science Foundation-funded Long Term Ecological Research program and currently studies seagrasses off the Florida coastline, Bermuda and Shark Bay, Australia.
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