What is blue carbon?
Blue carbon is the carbon captured and stored in coastal ecosystems including seagrass meadows, saltmarshes and mangroves. These ecosystems are carbon sinks, accumulating and retaining carbon in the plants themselves and in the soils below.
What are the benefits of blue carbon?
Blue carbon ecosystems can store up to four times as much carbon per area as land-based forests and, if undisturbed, can store carbon in soils over hundreds or thousands of years.
Protecting and restoring seagrass, saltmarshes and mangroves ecosystems is important due to their carbon sequestration and storage potential, and because these ecosystems can become sources of greenhouse gas emissions if degraded or cleared.
Beyond the benefits of carbon storage, protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems offers many additional positive benefits by:
- supporting regional economies and coastal livelihoods from fisheries, aquaculture and tourism activities;
- conserving wetland habitats of international and national significance, including for threatened and endangered species and biodiversity;
- protecting shorelines and enhancing resilience to storm surges and rising sea levels;
- improving and maintaining water quality;
- caring for sea country of enduring and continuing cultural significance; and
- providing for coastal recreation and enabling communities to connect with nature.
Blue Carbon in South Australia
South Australia’s coastline extends for over 5,000 km. There are potentially blue carbon ecosystems covering over a million hectares. The diversity and extent of these systems position the state to take a lead in developing blue carbon projects that protect and restore these important habitats and prevent their ongoing degradation.
The Blue Carbon Strategy for South Australia was released in November 2019 and was informed by research undertaken by the Goyder Institute and key partners, including Flinders University and the University of Adelaide.
The Strategy seeks to accelerate action to protect and restore coastal ecosystems through a range of blue carbon measures to reduce emissions and facilitate social, environmental, and economic co-benefits.
Following the release of the Strategy there has been significant interest in the capacity of seagrass, mangroves and saltmarsh to sequester organic carbon.
Partnership with TNC
DEW is working in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to progress a suite of blue carbon initiatives in the state; including:
- pilot one of the first blue carbon restoration projects, within the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary - Winaityinaityi Pangkara.
- identify potential tidal restoration sites under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) method,
- design a Blue Carbon Investment Fund
- assess the feasibility of insuring South Australia’s blue carbon stocks and wetlands against catastrophic events
Seagrass restoration in South Australia
South Australia has pioneered seagrass restoration off the metropolitan coast since 2002 when the first restoration program was initiated by DEW in collaboration with South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).
In 2019, $1 million funding from DEW delivered the largest seagrass restoration project in Australia by restoring 10 hectares of seagrass.
In 2022, SARDI and University of Adelaide (in partnership with SA Water and DEW) secured an additional $1.9 million from the Blue Carbon Ecosystem Restoration Grant for seagrass restoration at Port Gawler. The project will refine the approach for seagrass restoration and restore in excess of 20 hectares of seagrass.