3 strategies to capture more carbon in coastal ecosystems

Peter Macreadie, head of the Blue Carbon Lab at Deakin University, shares this Frontiers Focus on strategies for managing tidal marshes, mangroves, and seagrass ecosystems to more efficiently capture and store carbon.  His Concepts & Questions article appeared in the May 2017 issue of ESA Frontiers.

Five years ago the marine science world gave birth to a new term: “blue carbon,” which was created to describe the enormous and newly-recognized potential of the oceans to capture carbon and help slow climate change. Early estimates of the power of blue carbon were staggering — they indicated that blue carbon habitats (seagrasses, saltmarshes, mangroves) ranked among the most efficient and permanent carbon sinks on the planet, far exceeding that of key carbon sinks on land (like rainforests).

However, the capacity of coastal ecosystems to capture carbon is threatened globally by coastal development and climate change. Resource managers are in urgent need of guidance to manage coasts to minimize carbon losses and maximize gains. In the May issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, my colleagues and I propose three key environmental strategies that will help resource managers to get the best bang out of their blue carbon buck.

We draw upon knowledge from a broad range of environmental variables that influence the ability of coastal ecosystems to absorb and hold carbon, including warming, carbon dioxide levels, water depth, nutrients, runoff, disturbance of sediments by animals, physical disturbances, and tidal exchange. We discuss three potential management strategies that hold promise for optimizing coastal blue carbon sequestration:

  1. reduce nutrient flow into the system from industry, agriculture, and other human activities
  2. reinstate predators to control populations of burrowing animals that stir up sediments
  3. restore flow to coastal waterways

By means of case studies, we explore how these three strategies can minimize blue carbon losses and maximize gains.


Peter I Macreadie, Daniel A Nielsen, Jeffrey J Kelleway, Trisha B Atwood, Justin R Seymour, Katherina Petrou, Rod M Connolly, Alexandra CG Thomson, Stacey M Trevathan‐Tackett, Peter J Ralph (2017). Can we manage coastal ecosystems to sequester more blue carbon? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 15(4): 206–213, doi:10.1002/fee.1484

See also:

Coastal wetlands help fight climate change,” by Ariana Sutton-Grier, 1 Feb 2017.

Peter Macreadie displays a soil core from an Australian wetland in 2017. Credit, Simon Fox/Deakin University.

Peter Macreadie displays a soil core from an Australian wetland, in 2017. Credit, Simon Fox/Deakin University.

Author: Frontiers Focus

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