Oceans and coastal habitats can help mitigate climate change – if we help them

How much carbon can ocean and coastal habitats mop up?
Oceans and coastal habitats, including mangroves, seagrass, and tidal marshes, can absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate human greenhouse gas emissions. There are two main processes driving this carbon sequestration. Carbon dioxide reacts with water at the surface and is dissolved. However, this makes the waters more acidic and threatens marine organisms such as coral. Aquatic plants take up carbon dioxide to fuel photosynthesis, and when they die, some of that trapped carbon may be buried in ocean sediments for hundreds or even thousands of years.

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This long-term carbon storage is one of the many ecosystem services that nature-based solutions can provide by restoring and protecting healthy ecosystems. This infographic shows the current carbon-absorption capacity of the open ocean and three coastal ecosystems, as well as predictions for the end of the century under moderate- and high-emission scenarios.

an infographic

Words by Dr Claire Asher

Graphic by Valerio Pellegrini

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX