Blue Carbon: Cracking the Code

Global Green USA’s Louisiana Wetland Action Program (LWAP) has spent three years educating wetland stakeholders in Southeast Louisiana on innovative conservation opportunities—especially about blue carbon. Blue carbon is the organic carbon sequestered by wetlands vegetation and soils. Interestingly, due to the wetlands’ thick layer of soil, these ecosystems can store tremendous amounts of carbon compared to most other ecosystems like tropical forests. Despite blue carbon’s potential, some mysteries surrounding the science remain—notably the exact amount of carbon a given wetland can sequester.  According to Louisiana State University (LSU) Associate Professor of Oceanography Victor Rivera-Monroy, “Wetlands are like a black box: We know that carbon goes in, but we don’t know what goes on once it’s in the soil, or how.”

wetlands blue carbon graph

To help fill in some of these blanks, LWAP is utilizing a grant from the Coypu Foundation to partner with LSU’s School of the Coast and Environment to measure the carbon sequestration rates of black mangroves. As you can see in the above diagram, mangroves do effectively sequester carbon, but sequestration rates vary across the world.  For example, in Louisiana the black mangrove population is limited to the far southern reaches of the state and do not grow as tall as mangroves in Florida. This is because mangroves are limited by freezing temperatures. However, climate change has allowed mangrove populations to increase and slowly move north in Louisiana.

black mangrove expansion

Currently, there is little to no data about the carbon sequestration rates of black mangroves in Louisiana.  The Coypu project will fill this gap by examining the factors that determine wetland health. In turn, this data will help reveal wetland carbon sequestration capacity, including organic accretion rates, water and soil salinity, tidal patterns, and vegetation nutrient levels. This information will provide the scientific and carbon communities with essential details for determining the feasibility of blue carbon to help finance coastal restoration.

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