Blue Carbon Sequestration
Blue Carbon sequestration refers to the process where aquatic vegetation removes and holds mass quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the earth’s atmosphere in three main types of blue carbon ecosystems: mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes. As we all know, plants use CO2 in the process of photosynthesis (along with the energy from sunlight). Oxygen is then released as the plants’ waste product for aquatic and land animals to breathe.
For millions of years, these coastal ecosystems have taken in CO2 and stored it in aquatic plants. As the vegetation dies, it breaks down and eventually settles in the sediments below the water on the sea floor. The plants’ stored carbon lies here for safe keeping, up to hundreds and thousands of years if left undisturbed. These three diverse marine reservoirs play major roles as greenhouse gas captures and increasingly contribute to coastal protection around the world. BCEs can absorb and store up to ten times more carbon than land ecosystems (Conservation International, 2023).
Blue Carbon Ecosystems
Combined, all three major Blue Carbon Ecosystems (BCEs) store more than 30,000 Tg (trillion gallons) of carbon across approximately 185 million hectares each year. By the year 2030, these BCEs are predicted to decrease an additional 840 Tg of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent, meaning CO2 and other greenhouse gasses) per year, equaling approximately 3% of global emissions. BCEs are finally getting some of the recognition they deserve as solutions to “climate change mitigation and adaptation targets” (Macreadie,
Costa, & Atwood, 2021).
Canada is without mangrove forests due to their need for warm climates such as Florida, Indonesia, and other warm climates around the world. Florida mangrove forests are home to 220 species of fish, over 180 species of bird, and over twenty species of reptiles and amphibians (Travel Mate Bangladesh, 2018). Almost all of Florida’s mangrove forests are in southern Florida taking up an area of 2,000 km2.
Indonesia alone houses over 30,000 km2 of mangrove forests which produce food and habitat for a variety of fish species as well as crab, clam, eel and shrimp. The thick intertwining mass of mangrove forest roots are extremely resilient and not only work as habitat but as carbon captures and increases the mitigation of coastal erosion processes created by wave energy and storm surge (Conservation International, 2023).
Canada does inhabit a vast amount of seagrass meadows along all three coasts of Canada: The Pacific coast, Atlantic coast and “as far north as Baffin Island in Nunavut” (Bittick, 2019). Seagrass meadows are found in muddy, sandy shallow coastal waters and are home to marine invertebrates including sea stars, urchins, snails and clams. Shorebirds depend on these areas for food as do crabs, herring and salmon. Worldwide, there is an estimated area of 4,900 km2 of tidal marsh with Canada alone accounting for 3,600 km2 of them.
Eelgrass is one very important variety of seagrass which has been studied extensively at Dalhousie University and projects implemented with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, NS. Eelgrass not only creates food and habitat for aquatic animals, absorbs CO2 and methane (CH4) via photosynthesis, sequestering it in their roots. “Approximately one acre of seagrass meadows can sequester and store over 335 kg of CO2/yearly” (Inniss, 2022). Seagrass conservation efforts are increasingly becoming a focus across Canada to help absorb coastal wave energy and aid in the fight against climate change.
Seagrass meadows also exhibits the superpower to clarify water which increases water quality through various processes. Water that flows across the surface of the ground (as overland flow from the upland) is a major contributor to sedimentation and pollution entering our watercourses and oceans. Oceanfront properties and business developments have been constructed too close to the ocean which has become not only an environmental impact issue but also an issue for human safety. We all love the beautiful, unobstructed view of the ocean, but at what cost?
Last, but certainly not least, Tidal marshes are the most prevalent BCEs in Atlantic Canada. Tidal marsh is a vast and extremely beneficial ecosystem between tidal saltwater and land. These marshes greatly reduce the impact of storm surge and flooding due to their magnificent storage capacity for groundwater. The saltwater tides flow in towards land approximately every 6 hours and then flows back out to sea approximately every 6 hours; this fluctuation of high tide water level can be as high as 12-15 meters (40–50 feet) in the Bay of Fundy during high tide and can leave the ocean floor completely exposed during low tide.
Tidal marshes are home to the Great Blue Heron, which happens to be the species of bird on our Helping Nature Heal logo. The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in Canada with a standing measurement greater than 1 m tall and weighing approximately 2.5 kg. Their main sources of food are found in calm
freshwater and along seacoasts. Past hunting practices and destruction of tidal marshes has been a serious threat to their survival. Conservation efforts are in place provincially and today, the Great Blue Heron is protected under the federal legislation of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.
Many tidal marsh areas have historically been lost to ditching, draining and building dykes for agriculture, infilling because they were smelly and unsightly, or destroyed for coastal development. This remained common practice until approximately 1960.
In the mid 1960s, the John Lusby Marsh (located in the Bay of Fundy) was proposed for National Wildlife Area (NWA) protection along with the Chignecto NWA and Chignecto Isthmus wetlands for conservation of habitat and species (Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region, 2016).
Slowing Mother Nature with Helping Nature Heal
Helping Nature Heal is devoted to help slow the never-ending processes of erosion on your shoreline due to wave action, sea level rise and overland flow from the upland. We look at the entirety of each individual property through a holistic lens to get the entire background information of what is occurring. Our environmental professionals collect a vast array of data via walking your property and knowing what clues to look for to help aid in the healing process. We use drone photography which helps us compile data for topography of the area, we determine which hydrologic features are contributing to your property’s erosion and then implement science-based strategies to help slow these processes.
The upland energy on your property inputs into the erosion processes through surface runoff. The downflowing movement of the water’s velocity moves soil, debris and sediments from your unvegetated (or improperly vegetated) land, and deposits it in the coastal system. This process not only reduces the precious land you own, but it also pollutes the water as chemicals such as fertilizers and excess nutrients like grass clippings, leaves and woody debris enter the water. The ocean has been good to the humans for thousands of years, however there is a breaking point, and it is drawing near.
Please call us today for your initial site visit and property summary to enable us to help you create a strategy to help slow the erosion processes on your property.