U.S. States Play Major Role Boosting, Expanding ‘Blue Carbon’

Collected research and analyses of states’ efforts to leverage coastal habitats to address climate change

U.S. States Play Major Role Boosting 'Blue Carbon'
Wetlands
A wooden dock stretches over wetlands on Bald Head Island, North Carolina. Despite occupying less than 5% of global land area and less than 2% of the ocean, coastal wetlands store roughly 50% of all carbon buried in ocean sediments.
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U.S. states and local jurisdictions are largely responsible for governing their coasts, so they play a critical role in ensuring the protection and restoration of “blue carbon” habitats, such as seagrasses and salt marshes, that absorb and sequester the carbon that drives climate change and offer many other benefits to coastal communities and the environment. For example, the forested tidal wetlands in Oregon—which have declined 95% from historic levels—store more carbon per acre than almost any ecosystem on Earth, while also supporting fisheries, improving water quality, and protecting communities from flooding.

The Pew Charitable Trusts collaborates with governmental entities and researchers in targeted states to identify and catalog blue carbon habitats and craft strategies to maintain and enhance them as part of larger efforts to address climate change. Further, because the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement in February 2021, federal policymakers also have a renewed opportunity to advance national goals on this vital issue and make the country’s coastal communities more resilient to the growing threats from climate change.

Girl Exploring the Outer Banks
Girl Exploring the Outer Banks
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Threatened Coastal Habitats Face Management Challenges

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Article

Coastal habitats in the U.S., many of which are vulnerable and declining, provide significant benefits to people, marine life, and the climate, and would benefit from comprehensive monitoring and management, according to a new white paper from Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability

Salt marshes
Salt marshes
White Paper

CA Should Include Coastal Wetlands in Climate Plans

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White Paper

New study details why and how to include coastal wetlands in state greenhouse gas-reduction planning

OUR WORK

Mangrove forest
Mangrove forest
Issue Brief

Coastal 'Blue Carbon' and Combating Climate Change

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Issue Brief

Coastal wetlands, including salt marshes, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows, are among the most productive—and threatened—ecosystems on the planet.

A “ghost forest”—the remnants of healthy forests ravaged by rapid saltwater intrusion caused by sea-level rise—in Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
A “ghost forest”—the remnants of healthy forests ravaged by rapid saltwater intrusion caused by sea-level rise—in Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Article

Blue Carbon Mitigates, but Also Threatened by Climate Change

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Article

In what’s becoming a distressingly familiar scenario, the scientific evidence that a natural ecosystem can help fight climate change is building just as that same habitat faces increasing threats from a warming planet. In this case, it’s “blue carbon” habitats—such as salt marsh and seagrass beds—which can capture and store significant amounts of carbon but are also imperiled by rising sea levels.