On May 20, 2021, The Pew Charitable Trusts submitted comments encouraging the California Natural Resources Agency to include coastal “blue carbon” habitats in an upcoming strategy intended to identify and implement actions to accelerate natural removal of carbon, protect biodiversity, and build climate resilience. This strategy, the first of its kind for California, will harness the power of “natural and working lands,” including forest, farm, ranch, grassland, and wetland ecosystems, to fight climate change.
In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order establishing a goal to conserve at least 30% of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030 and elevating the role of natural and working lands as a pillar of the state’s climate change strategy. Tidal wetlands and underwater eelgrass beds capture carbon dioxide and store it in their leaves, stems, and soils. When healthy, these blue carbon ecosystems lock away significantly more carbon than in the equivalent area of terrestrial forests. In its letter, Pew recommends that the state improve its accounting of the contribution that blue carbon habitats provide and prioritize their conservation.
The letter also points out how tidal wetlands, eelgrass beds, and kelp forests can help communities and nature adapt to climate change impacts, such as sea level rise and acidifying waters, while supporting the state’s valuable halibut, salmon, and other fisheries.