Blue Carbon International Scientific Working Group

photolib_mangroves-in-bali1thumbnailMangrove forests sequester much more carbon in the mud and sediment surrounding their roots than in the canopy. (c) J Tamelander / IUCN

The "Blue Carbon" International Scientific Working Group met last week at UNESCO headquarters to discuss the implications of using coastal "blue" carbon as a conservation and management tool contributing to climate change mitigation and the development of associated conservation financing mechanisms.

Marine ecosystems – particularly coastal vegetated ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes – have demonstrated capacity for sequestering carbon in both the plant biomass above ground and in the subsurface sediment layer. For that reason, those vegetated areas are now widely acknowledged as important natural sinks for greenhouse gases (GHGs). Destruction and degradation of these ecosystems could convert these long‐term carbon sinks into major GHG sources, as the carbon sequestrated over thousands of years in thick sediment layers could be released back to the environment in a short period of time. The magnitude of the emissions associated with coastal degradation is only now becoming apparent.

The working group will gather scientific evidence to determine the role of coastal vegetated ecosystems in carbon storage and sequestration, encourage the inclusion of these systems in national carbon accounting, and consider their conservation and restoration as a viable mitigation strategy under existing climate regulation policies.

The Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group will attempt to detail the global relevance of coastal carbon by creating an inventory of coastal carbon storage and sequestration potential, by identifying coastal carbon hotspots, and by quantifying possible emissions associated with the degradation of coastal ecosystems. The group will also create recommendations for quantifying and monitoring carbon storage and flux (both sequestration and loss), on various spatial scales, by defining practically applicable classification system for coastal carbon ecosystems, and by identifying parameters/data required to locate and sense and detect coastal carbon, including possible surrogate indicators. Finally the Working Group will develop coastal conservation guidelines for coastal carbon and create scientific recommendations for coastal planning and management that prioritize sequestration and storage of coastal carbon deposits.

The first “Blue Carbon” International Scientific Working Group Meeting was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France 15-17 February 2011. The meeting was organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, Conservation International (CI), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). During three days, thirty participants from ten countries attended to coordinate and guide the establishment of the Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group, which will distribute it's recommendations through a meeting report to be published in March 2010. For more information please visit

http://www.marineclimatechange.com/marineclimatechange/bluecarbon_2.html