The design of efficient monitoring programmes required for the assurance of offshore geological storage requires an understanding of the variability and heterogeneity of marine carbonate chemistry. In the absence of sufficient observational data and for extrapolation both spatially and seasonally, models have a significant role to play. In this study a previously evaluated hydrodynamic-biogeochemical model is used to characterise carbonate chemistry, in particular pH heterogeneity in the vicinity of the sea floor. Using three contrasting regions, the seasonal and short term variability are analysed and criteria that could be considered as indicators of anomalous carbonate chemistry identified. These criteria are then tested by imposing a number of randomised DIC perturbations on the model data, representing a comprehensive range of leakage scenarios. In conclusion optimal criteria and general rules for developing monitoring strategies are identified. Detection criteria will be site specific and vary seasonally and monitoring may be more efficient at periods of low dynamics. Analysis suggests that by using high frequency, sub-hourly monitoring anomalies as small as 0.01 of a pH unit or less may be successfully discriminated from natural variability – thereby allowing detection of small leaks or at distance from a leakage source. Conversely assurance of no leakage would be profound. Detection at deeper sites is likely to be more efficient than at shallow sites where the near bed system is closely coupled to surface processes. Although this study is based on North Sea target sites for geological storage, the model and the general conclusions are relevant to the majority of offshore storage sites lying on the continental shelf.
Blue Carbon & Sequestration
In Bangladesh, export-oriented shrimp farming is one of the most important sectors of the national economy. However, shrimp farming in coastal Bangladesh has devastating effects on mangrove forests. Mangroves are the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics, and blue carbon (i.e., carbon in coastal and marine ecosystems) emissions from mangrove deforestation due to shrimp cultivation are accumulating. These anthropogenic carbon emissions are the dominant cause of climate change, which in turn affect shrimp cultivation. Some adaptation strategies including Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), mangrove restoration, and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) could help to reduce blue carbon emissions. Translocation of shrimp culture from mangroves to open-water IMTA and restoration of habitats could reduce blue carbon emissions, which in turn would increase blue carbon sequestration. Mangrove restoration by the REDD+ program also has the potential to conserve mangroves for resilience to climate change. However, institutional support is needed to implement the proposed adaptation strategies.
Integrating spatial heterogeneity into assessments of salt marsh biogeochemistry is becoming increasingly important because disturbances that reduce plant productivity and soil drainage may contribute to an expansion of shallow ponds. These permanently inundated and sometimes prominent landscape features can exist for decades, yet little is known about pond biogeochemistry or their role in marsh ecosystem functioning. We characterized three ponds in a temperate salt marsh (MA, USA) over alternating periods of tidal isolation and flushing, during summer and fall, by evaluating the composition of plant communities and organic matter pools and measuring surface water oxygen, temperature, and conductivity. The ponds were located in the high marsh and had similar depths, temperatures, and salinities. Despite this, they had different levels of suspended particulate, dissolved, and sediment organic matter and abundances of phytoplankton, macroalgae, and Ruppia maritima. Differences in plant communities were reflected in pond metabolism rates, which ranged from autotrophic to heterotrophic. Integrating ponds into landcover-based estimates of marsh metabolism resulted in slower rates of net production (−8.1 ± 0.3 to −15.7 ± 0.9%) and respiration (−2.9 ± 0.5 to −10.0 ± 0.4%), compared to rates based on emergent grasses alone. Seasonality had a greater effect on pond water chemistry, organic matter pools, and algal abundances than tidal connectivity. Alternating stretches of tidal isolation and flushing did not affect pond salinities or algal communities, suggesting that exchange between ponds and nearby creeks was limited. Overall, we found that ponds are heterogeneous habitats and future expansion could reduce landscape connectivity and the ability of marshes to capture and store carbon.
Seagrasses comprise a substantive North American and Caribbean Sea blue carbon sink. Yet fine-scale estimates of seagrass carbon stocks, fluxes from anthropogenic disturbances, and potential gains in sedimentary carbon from seagrass restoration are lacking for most of the Western Hemisphere. To begin to fill this knowledge gap in the subtropics and tropics, we quantified organic carbon (Corg) stocks, losses, and gains from restorations at 8 previously-disturbed seagrass sites around the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) (n = 128 cores). Mean natural seagrass Corg stocks were 25.7 ± 6.7 Mg Corg ha− 1 around the GoM, while mean Corg stocks at adjacent barren sites that had previously hosted seagrass were 17.8 Mg Corg ha− 1. Restored seagrass beds contained a mean of 38.7 ± 13.1 Mg Corg ha− 1. Mean Corg losses differed by anthropogenic impact type, but averaged 20.98 ± 7.14 Mg Corg ha− 1. Corggains from seagrass restoration averaged 20.96 ± 8.59 Mg ha− 1. These results, when combined with the similarity between natural and restored Corg content, highlight the potential of seagrass restoration for mitigating seagrass Corg losses from prior impact events. Our GoM basin-wide estimates of natural Corg totaled ~ 36.4 Tg for the 947,327 ha for the USA-GoM. Including Mexico, the total basin contained an estimated 37.2–37.5 Tg Corg. Regional US-GoM losses totaled 21.69 Tg Corg. Corg losses differed significantly among anthropogenic impacts. Yet, seagrass restoration appears to be an important climate change mitigation strategy that could be implemented elsewhere throughout the tropics and subtropics.
Over the coming century humanity may need to find reservoirs to store several trillions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from fossil fuel combustion, which would otherwise cause dangerous climate change if it were left in the atmosphere. Carbon storage in the ocean as bicarbonate ions (by increasing ocean alkalinity) has received very little attention. Yet, recent work suggests sufficient capacity to sequester copious quantities of CO2. It may be possible to sequester hundreds of billions to trillions of tonnes of C without surpassing post-industrial average carbonate saturation states in the surface ocean. When globally distributed, the impact of elevated alkalinity is potentially small, and may help ameliorate the effects of ocean acidification. However, the local impact around addition sites may be more acute but is specific to the mineral and technology.
The alkalinity of the ocean increases naturally because of rock weathering in which > 1.5 moles of carbon are removed from the atmosphere for every mole of magnesium or calcium dissolved from silicate minerals (e.g., wollastonite, olivine, anorthite), and 0.5 moles for carbonate minerals (e.g., calcite, dolomite). These processes are responsible for naturally sequestering 0.5 billion of CO2 tons per year. Alkalinity is reduced in the ocean through carbonate mineral precipitation, which is almost exclusively formed from biological activity. Most of the previous work on the biological response to changes in carbonate chemistry have focused on acidifying conditions. More research is required to understand carbonate precipitation at elevated alkalinity to constrain the longevity of carbon storage.
A range of technologies have been proposed to increase ocean alkalinity (accelerated weathering of limestone, enhanced weathering, electrochemical promoted weathering, ocean liming), the cost of which may be comparable to alternative carbon sequestration proposals (e.g., $20 - 100 tCO2-1). There are still many unanswered technical, environmental, social, and ethical questions, but the scale of the carbon sequestration challenge warrants research to address these.
Vegetated marine habitats are globally important carbon sinks, making a significant contribution towards mitigating climate change, and they provide a wide range of other ecosystem services. However, large gaps in knowledge remain, particularly for seagrass meadows in Africa. The present study estimated biomass and sediment organic carbon (Corg) stocks of four dominant seagrass species in Gazi Bay, Kenya. It compared sediment Corg between seagrass areas in vegetated and un-vegetated ‘controls’, using the naturally patchy occurence of seagrass at this site to test the impacts of seagrass growth on sediment Corg. It also explored relationships between the sediment and above-ground Corg, as well as between the total biomass and above-ground parameters. Sediment Corg was significantly different between species, range: 160.7–233.8 Mg C ha-1 (compared to the global range of 115.3 to 829.2 Mg C ha-1). Vegetated areas in all species had significantly higher sediment Corg compared with un-vegetated controls; the presence of seagrass increased Corg by 4–6 times. Biomass carbon differed significantly between species with means ranging between 4.8–7.1 Mg C ha-1 compared to the global range of 2.5–7.3 Mg C ha-1. To our knowledge, these are among the first results on seagrass sediment Corg to be reported from African seagrass beds; and contribute towards our understanding of the role of seagrass in global carbon dynamics.
To promote the sequestration of blue carbon, resource managers rely on best-management practices that have historically included protecting and restoring vegetated coastal habitats (seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves), but are now beginning to incorporate catchment-level approaches. Drawing upon knowledge from a broad range of environmental variables that influence blue carbon sequestration, including warming, carbon dioxide levels, water depth, nutrients, runoff, bioturbation, physical disturbances, and tidal exchange, we discuss three potential management strategies that hold promise for optimizing coastal blue carbon sequestration: (1) reducing anthropogenic nutrient inputs, (2) reinstating top-down control of bioturbator populations, and (3) restoring hydrology. By means of case studies, we explore how these three strategies can minimize blue carbon losses and maximize gains. A key research priority is to more accurately quantify the impacts of these strategies on atmospheric greenhouse-gas emissions in different settings at landscape scales.
Blue carbon, the carbon fixed by vegetated coastal ecosystems including seagrasses, is reported to have a large potential to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide. Planting, expanding or protecting seagrass meadows has, accordingly, been proposed as a form of geoengineering. Seagrasses are reported to account for up to 18% of the carbon burial in the world's oceans, which is on the same order of magnitude as other proposed geoengineering techniques, including iron fertilization. International protocols have been developed to quantify carbon sequestration in seagrass meadows, with a view to awarding carbon credits under the Verified Carbon Standard. Unfortunately, because these protocols do not adequately account for post-depositional processes in marine sediment, they significantly overestimate carbon capture by seagrass beds and give an incorrect view of its distribution. Specifically, neglecting biomixing and remineralization of carbon in surface sediments biases burial rates high, while using sediment carbon inventory (soil carbon stock) over the top 1 m as a proxy for burial rate incorrectly identifies areas of high carbon burial. Seagrass beds likely provide a limited setting for geoengineering, because they generally comprise slowly-accumulating, fine to medium sand, which captures organic carbon less efficiently than fine-grained sediments or rapidly-accumulating delta deposits. While there is no question that seagrass meadows provide valuable habitat, nor that they are disappearing rapidly, their contribution to the global burial of carbon has not yet been established. The danger of geoengineering with seagrasses before reliable assessment methods have been established is that overestimated carbon offsets could lead to a net increase in emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Old growth mangroves in existing protected areas store more carbon than restored forests or plantations. Carbon storage in such forests has economic value independent of additionality, offering opportunities for policy makers to ensure their maintenance, and inclusion in climate change mitigation strategies. Mangrove forests of the Everglades National Park (ENP), South Florida, though protected, face external stressors such as hydrological alterations because of flooding control structures and agriculture impacts and saltwater intrusion as a result of increasing sea level rise. Moreover, decreased funding of Everglades’ restoration activities following the recent economic crisis (beginning 2008) threatens the restoration of the Greater Everglades including mangrove dominated coastal regions. We evaluate several economic and ecological challenges confronting the economic valuation of total (vegetation plus soil) organic carbon (TOC) storage in the ENP mangroves. Estimated TOC storage for this forested wetland ranges from 70 to 537 Mg C/ha and is higher than values reported for tropical, boreal, and temperate forests. We calculate the average abatement cost of C specific for ENP mangroves to value the TOC from $2–$3.4 billion; estimated unit area values are $13,859/ha–$23,728/ha. The valuation of the stored/legacy carbon is based on the: 1) ecogeomorphic attributes, 2) regional socio-economic milieu, and 3) status of the ENP mangroves as a protected area. The assessment of C storage estimates and its economic value can change public perception about how this regulating ecosystem service of ENP mangrove wetlands (144,447 ha) supports human well-being and numerous economic activities. This perception, in turn, can contribute to future policy changes such that the ENP mangroves, the largest mangrove area in the continental USA, can be included as a potential alternative in climate change mitigation strategies.
Coastal dunes support biodiverse habitats of conservation interest and provide other essential but often overlooked benefits to society, such as carbon sequestration, thanks to their high soil carbon accumulation rates. The recently established coastal dune Natura 2000 network in the Italian Adriatic coast aims at protecting dune habitats diversity, yet its capacity to provide other ecosystem services, and the potential trade-offs with biodiversity provision have so far not been evaluated. In this paper we conduct this analysis for a key ecosystem service: carbon storage and sequestration. We i) quantify soil carbon stocks and sequestration within four coastal dune EU habitat types along the Adriatic Natura 2000 network; ii) upscale these data to create an inventory of carbon stocks for all dune Natura 2000 sites in the study area; iii) collate biodiversity data of the selected EU habitat types using plant diversity measures as surrogates of coastal dune biodiversity and iv) explore the trade-offs between carbon storage and biodiversity value for the selected habitats. Italian Adriatic coastal dune Natura 2000 sites sequester 4998 t of CO2e per year, with the majority in wooded dunes. Wooded dunes showed significantly higher soil carbon density than the other dune habitats, and had a much greater area, but they were characterized by lower species richness. By contrast, the endangered fixed dunes, which survive in few residual patches along the study area, showed the highest plant diversity for both total species richness and dune focal species, but had a much lower carbon density and extent. Although further analyses of additional services would be desirable for a more comprehensive assessment, these findings suggest that conservation actions should favor restoration of the natural dune zonation, since it guarantees both dune species diversity and carbon storage. The carbon stocks and EU habitat type extents produced in this study constitute the first systematic inventory for dune systems in the Mediterranean.