Sequestration of macroalgal carbon: the elephant in the Blue Carbon room
Macroalgae form the most extensive and productive benthic marine vegetated habitats globally but their inclusion in Blue Carbon (BC) strategies remains controversial. We review the arguments offered to reject or include macroalgae in the BC framework, and identify the challenges that have precluded macroalgae from being incorporated so far. Evidence that macroalgae support significant carbon burial is compelling. The carbon they supply to sediment stocks in angiosperm BC habitats is already included in current assessments, so that macroalgae are de facto recognized as important donors of BC. The key challenges are (i) documenting macroalgal carbon sequestered beyond BC habitat, (ii) tracing it back to source habitats, and (iii) showing that management actions at the habitat lead to increased sequestration at the sink site. These challenges apply equally to carbon exported from BC coastal habitats. Because of the large carbon sink they support, incorporation of macroalgae into BC accounting and actions is an imperative. This requires a paradigm shift in accounting procedures as well as developing methods to enable the capacity to trace carbon from donor to sink habitats in the ocean.