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.

Coastal wetlands
Coastal wetlands
White Paper

New Study Shows Climate Benefits of ‘Blue Carbon’

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White Paper

The San Francisco Bay and its 59,000 acres of tidally influenced wetlands comprise the largest estuary on the U.S. West Coast and offer the region’s more than 7 million residents many benefits.

Oregon’s tidal forested wetlands—such as the Sitka spruce tidal swamp on the Columbia River estuary, shown here—capture and store significant amounts of carbon, but only 5% of these habitats’ historical peak acreage remains.
Oregon’s tidal forested wetlands—such as the Sitka spruce tidal swamp on the Columbia River estuary, shown here—capture and store significant amounts of carbon, but only 5% of these habitats’ historical peak acreage remains.
Article

Variety of Resources Can Help States Measure 'Blue Carbon'

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Article

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions remains the most important weapon available to combat climate change, but states increasingly have access to other tools to help them in the battle.

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