Communities throughout the country have been taking measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. This has taken many forms including the promotion of renewable energy, the development of energy efficiencies, and the conservation of forest systems. The planting of trees to function as carbon sinks has been the focus of many local campaigns. Carbon sequestration, as it is called, is an effective way of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide, one of the more important greenhouse gases. And so protecting terrestrial ecosystems is a successful way of absorbing and sequestering greenhouse gases.
In addition to capturing carbon through the process of photosynthesis, sequestration also occurs in the soil. And that is where this new concept of Blue Carbon takes place for the most part. The research into coastal ecosystems now shows that these wetlands absorb more carbon than terrestrial systems such as tropical rainforests. According to a publication by the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve coastal wetlands can actually store three to five times as much carbon as forest systems. Most of this sequestration takes place in wetland soils where there is a slow rate of decomposition.
Unfortunately this process is adversely affected by nitrogen loading, a serious problem on its own in the waters of Cape Cod. Excess runoff of nitrogen can break down carbon in the soil which can cause an increase in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These close biogeochemical interactions demonstrate how important it is to restore and protect coastal ecosystems.
There are many reasons why coastal habitats are ecologically significant. They are nurseries for commercial shellfish and finfish. They are important to prevent coastal erosion, salt water intrusion into the aquifer, and coastal flooding due to increased storm activity. They are valuable wildlife areas particularly for migratory birds and rare plant and animal species. And they also provide important recreational opportunities from boating to hiking.
The restoration and protection of these resource areas need to be a priority for public health and safety reasons also. And now we have impressive data to show how important coastal systems are in the long term battle for dealing with climate change.
Copyright Gil Newton 2009 Thanks to Chris Dumas for logo image.