We Desperately Need To Store More Carbon – Seagrass Could Be An Answer

We Desperately Need To Store More Carbon – Seagrass Could Be The Answer shutterstock.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to avoid a climate change catastrophe. Although efforts are already being made to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses, they are by most estimations not enough.

It is therefore critical that we find ways to drastically reduce the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere. Ecosystems capable of absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide know as “carbon sinks” are ideal for this.

In principle, all living organisms – all animals, plants, algae and bacteria – consist of carbon and so function as a carbon sink. For example, as long as a tree lives it will absorb and store carbon. Given the sheer volume of all the trees contained in tropical forests, it’s no wonder most people imagine such forests when they think of a carbon sink.

We Desperately Need To Store More Carbon – Seagrass Could Be The Answer Stores lots of carbon – but mostly above ground. Hugh Lansdown/Shutterstock

However, once chopped down and turned into firewood, the carbon in those trees will be released and emitted back into the atmosphere as CO₂. So while a forest is a moderately efficient carbon sink, its capacity to retain carbon in the forest floor is limited.

In fact, new research by colleagues and I has found that such forests are actually only the fifth most efficient ecosystem in the carbon storage cycle behind salt marshes, mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and, best of all, tundra.

Tundra is found in polar or mountainous regions where temperatures are too low for trees to grow, and the landscape is dominated by grasses or moss. As a large part of the carbon is stored in the frozen soil and so is harder to disturb, it makes a very efficient sink. However, rising temperatures are melting the tundra in many parts of the world, releasing stored carbon back into the atmosphere, and as a consequence its capacity to store carbon is decreasing.

While forests and tundras are losing capacity for carbon storage, another often forgotten ecosystem may hold the answer: seagrass.

We need to create vast underwater meadows

Seagrass plants have an excellent capacity for taking up and storing carbon in the oxygen-depleted seabed, where it decomposes much slower than on land. This oxygen-free sediment traps the carbon in the dead plant material which may then remain buried for hundreds of years.

We Desperately Need To Store More Carbon – Seagrass Could Be The Answer Seagrass can grow at depths of up to 90m and is an important part of the food web. Anita Kainrath / shutterstock

Seagrass meadows are, for the most part, in recession across the globe due to human activity. As a result the re-establishment of these meadows will make it possible to greatly increase the carbon storage potential of our oceans.

Many factors influence the exact amount of carbon that can be taken up by a seagrass meadow, but rough calculations show that if we restore one hectare of seagrass, it would correspond to at least ten hectares of dry-land forest and even as much as 40.

Planting vast areas of seagrass meadow is also an eminently doable task as these plants are not seaweeds, but plants with flowers, leaves and roots just like plants on land. This means they produce seeds that can be sown in the seabed or small shoots that can be planted by divers. To develop new techniques for actually planting all this seagrass on a massive scale, colleagues and I have been involved in the Novagrass project, which trialled seagrass planting in the coastal zone around Denmark.

We tested various techniques, involving both seeds and seedlings, and had the most success when planting seedlings in chequerboard patterns on the seabed. The lessons from this project are now being applied in a larger scale trial, where muddy seabed is topped up with a layer of sand before seedlings are planted. We are waiting on the results, but so far this technique appears to be a promising way to re-establish eelgrass in coastal areas.

We Desperately Need To Store More Carbon – Seagrass Could Be The Answer Marine eelgrasses are found in shallow seas across much of the world. gerardgiraud/wiki, CC BY-SA

There are about 60 seagrass species in the world to choose from, but we focused on common eelgrass (Zostera marina). It cannot tolerate warm seas but it’s the most common species in temperate areas and grows well around coasts in the northern hemisphere. Seagrasses thrive in coastal zones, they have the potential to grow all over the world (except Antarctica) and are even expanding into the Arctic as the ice recedes.

There is some evidence of natural recovery after excessive nutrients from fertilisers and other human pressures have been relieved. But much more action is needed to avoid further loss – and indeed new growth – of these valuable ecosystems.The Conversation

About The Author

Marianne Holmer, Professor of Biology, University of Southern Denmark

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
9780143130444In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy

by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
1610919564With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein
1451697392In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

Emergency Medicine For Our Climate Fever
by Kelly Wanser
As we recklessly warm the planet by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, some industrial emissions also…
What Extinction Rebellion climate activists are demanding from governments
by Democracy Now!
More than 700 climate activists were arrested in 60 cities worldwide in a global effort aimed at urging governments to…
Can Nature Repair The Planet From Climate Change?
by The Economist
A closer look at one of the most familiar responses offered to the climate crisis.
How Climate Change Is Threatening Homes In Mumbai
by South China Morning Post
Lowland cities and islands such as the Indian city of Mumbai may face increasingly frequent floods and storms
This is Not A Drill: 700+ Arrested as Extinction Rebellion Fights Climate Crisis With Direct Action
by Democracy Now!
More than 700 people have been arrested in civil disobedience actions as the group Extinction Rebellion kicked off two…
Europe's Most Iconic Mountain Is A Climate Change Warning
by ABC News
ABC News' James Longman reports from Mont Blanc, where a glacier on the Italian side of the mountain is breaking apart…
Something Drastic Has To Happen - Roger Hallam
by Extinction Rebellion
Roger Hallam talks with Stephen Sackur from BBC HardTalk about the need to ACT NOW.
Three Steps to Cut Your Carbon Footprint 60% Today
by TEDx Talks
Not all carbon is created equal. Writer Jackson Carpenter argues that the power to stop climate change rests on…

LATEST ARTICLES

Extreme Heatwaves Pose Spreading Threat
Extreme Heatwaves Pose Spreading Threat
by Tim Radford
Rising temperatures mean that heatwaves will become hotter, more frequent, last longer and will cover much wider areas.
Design For Flooding: How Cities Can Make Room For Water
Design For Flooding: How Cities Can Make Room For Water
by Elisa Palazzo
Science is clearly showing that the world is shifting towards a more unstable climate. Weather events like the flash…
How Unions Can Play A Leading Role In Tackling The Climate Crisis
How Unions Can Play A Leading Role In Tackling The Climate Crisis
by Matt Perry
How did a billionaire win over coal miners in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to become president? Three words: “Trump…
Rice Growing Produces Tonnes Of Excess Straw – Can We Turn It Into Bioenergy?
Rice Growing Produces Tonnes Of Excess Straw – Can We Turn It Into Bioenergy?
by Mirjam Roeder
For every tonne of rice produced, about a tonne of straw is grown. Given 770m tonnes of rice are produced each year,…
How Much Of Climate Change Is Natural? How Much Is Man-made?
How Much Of Climate Change Is Natural? How Much Is Man-made?
by Mark New
As someone who has been working on climate change detection and its causes for over 20 years I was both surprised and…
How The U.s. Power Grid Is Evolving To Handle Solar And Wind
How The U.s. Power Grid Is Evolving To Handle Solar And Wind
by Nate Berg
As renewable energy sources move mainstream, electricity generation and distribution systems are getting an extreme…
Emergency Medicine For Our Climate Fever
by Kelly Wanser
As we recklessly warm the planet by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, some industrial emissions also…
Mr. Delay, Mr. Deny And Canada's Precarious Climate Change Future
Mr. Delay, Mr. Deny And Canada's Precarious Climate Change Future
by Mark Winfield
During the recent federal leaders’ debate, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer only distinguished himself on climate…