Blue Carbon: The Role of Oceans as Carbon Sinks

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The native vegetation in coastal areas plays an important role in combating climate change!

Source: Mohamed Sameeh [5]

You might already know that the ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and about 97% of the Earth's water can be found in our ocean [1]. But do you know the fact that the ocean has been influencing our climate since the very beginning of life on Earth? And are you aware that both the physical ocean and living organisms have contributed to the carbon cycle? It turns out that out of all the green carbon captured in the world, over half is captured by marine living organisms. In other words, half of the green carbon is actually blue carbon!

Wait… Carbon sinks? Green and blue carbon? What are they?

First of all, let’s find out the definition of sink. A sink is any process, activity, or mechanism that removes greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. For example, forests, soils, vegetated marine coastal habitats, and ocean are natural sinks for CO2. And depending on how the gas is removed, carbon can be classified as either green carbon and blue carbon.

The carbon that is removed through photosynthesis and stored in plants and soil is called green carbon.

Meanwhile, the carbon captured by marine organisms is herein called blue carbon. The carbon that is captured by the world’s ocean represents more than 55% of the green carbon, which means that only 45% of green carbon is stored in natural terrestrial ecosystems and the rest is stored in various marine ecosystems [2].

Read also: Making Friends with Water: How Sponge City Can Solve Jakarta's Flooding

What’s so special about blue carbon sinks?

Seagrass ecosystems are among the most significant natural carbon sinks worldwide!

Source: Brian Yurasits [6]

Natural terrestrial sinks such as forest biomass can only accumulate carbon over decades or centuries. Meanwhile, the carbon captured by marine organisms in mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses will be stored for millennia! Therefore, marine ecosystems represent extremely strong natural carbon sinks [3]. Pretty cool, huh?

But blue carbon sinks are in danger!

Vegetated marine coastal habitats currently ranked amongst the most threatened marine ecosystems! A recent assessment indicates that about one-third of the global seagrass area has been already lost. Furthermore, about 25% of the area originally covered by salt-marshes has been globally lost and also estimated that a total of about 35% of the area once covered by mangroves had been lost globally since the 1940s [4].

Read also: Meet 7 World’s Environmental Heroines

Let’s do something about it!

Are we going to ignore that our carbon sink is getting more damaged over time? Of course not! Let’s take our part in protecting our blue carbon sinks by doing these following actions:

  1. Start educating ourselves regarding blue carbon.

  2. Start spreading awareness of the importance of blue carbon sinks! The more people know about it, the more significant impact we get!

  3. Any actions that we can take to help prevent carbon sink loss?

As the ocean is a strong blue carbon sink that significantly contributes to reducing the impact of climate change, the awareness of marine ecosystem’s well-being should be widely spread and promoted. Through sharing knowledge and spreading awareness, together we can combat climate change and its impact!










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