California Wisely Includes Coastal Habitats in Efforts to Combat Climate Change

Pew comment letter highlights value of tidal wetlands, kelp, and eelgrass beds

California Includes Coastal Habitats to Combat Climate Change

On Nov. 4, 2021, The Pew Charitable Trusts submitted comments to the California Natural Resources Agency supporting the inclusion of “blue carbon” habitats—coastal wetlands, seagrass, and seaweeds—in the agency’s strategy to accelerate natural removal of atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide and build the state’s climate resilience. This effort is the first of its kind for California and will harness the power of natural and working lands, such as forests, farms, grasslands, and wetlands, to fight climate change.

Coastal wetlands capture carbon dioxide and store it in their leaves, stems, and soils. This nature-based solution is known as blue carbon because the benefits originate in the marine environment. Healthy blue carbon ecosystems lock away significantly more carbon than equivalent areas of terrestrial forest.

In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order establishing a goal to conserve at least 30% of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030 and elevating natural and working lands to be pillars of the state’s climate change strategy. In its letter, Pew endorsed measures to protect and restore critical coastal ecosystems and improve accounting of the amount of carbon they capture and store. The letter also notes how tidal wetlands, eelgrass beds, and kelp forests can help communities and nature adapt to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise and acidifying waters, while supporting coastal economies and culture.

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Eelgrass, shown near a yacht tied up at a private dock near Sapphire Ave on the shores of Balboa Is
Eelgrass, shown near a yacht tied up at a private dock near Sapphire Ave on the shores of Balboa Is
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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.