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.

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.

Danger Point Marsh in Oregon’s South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is home to numerous wetland research projects, including studies that allow scientists to estimate rates of carbon storage in the region’s tidal wetlands.
Danger Point Marsh in Oregon’s South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is home to numerous wetland research projects, including studies that allow scientists to estimate rates of carbon storage in the region’s tidal wetlands.
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Oregon Climate Plan to Account for 'Blue Carbon' Benefits

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Article

Oregon’s estuaries, where rivers meet the sea, are home to forested tidal wetlands, ecosystems that store more carbon by area than almost any other type of wetland in the world. And for the first time, Oregon may begin accounting for and utilizing this benefit to help track and reduce the state’s carbon footprint.

Steve Crooks holding equipment in water in Khor Kalba
Steve Crooks holding equipment in water in Khor Kalba
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'Blue Carbon' Can Boost Global Climate Change Reduction

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Article

With national and international momentum building for protecting and enhancing coastal habitats to help combat climate change, countries around the world—and U.S. states—are exploring ways to expand and account for “blue carbon,” that is, atmospheric carbon that’s captured in the world’s coastal ecosystems.

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