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Science Topic

Blue carbon

Blue carbon research focuses on the ways that oceans and vegetated coastal ecosystems, like mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass beds, contribute to the global carbon budget. 

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) has been a leading institution in the development of the understanding about the role of macroalgae in global blue carbon, informing conservation and restoration of macroalgal habitats, as well the growing seaweed farming industry. Our researchers are involved in a number of international initiatives currently developing the knowledge necessary to pave a more inclusive definition for blue carbon ecosystems (including macroalgae and other types of habitats) as well as developing policies that capitalise more broadly on global blue carbon capability toward climate change mitigation.

In fact, PML undertakes extensive research on blue carbon, including everything from developing detailed understanding of the biogeochemistry through to biodiversity implications and scenario modelling, as well as valuing changes in carbon budgets and societal implications. A key area of our blue carbon research looks at how carbon flows between different ocean carbon pools and the pathways it takes to sites where long term sequestration takes place, especially between the coast and the open ocean.
Another key area of activity, with a substantial track record for PML, is the valuation and feasibility of blue carbon initiatives and the finance and societal implications of different blue carbon schemes ranging from local projects to national jurisdictional programmes. PML has been a leading institution in the development of the value of marine carbon in both tropical and temperate blue habitats, with the recent example of the “Valuing Marine Biodiversity for use in Decision Making” project (2022-24) which will research state-of-the-art carbon valuation, inclusion of carbon in natural capital accounting and pilot investment approaches in the UK. Our researchers are also involved in the current National Capabilities International FOCUS project (2022-26) that includes novel research into the demand and supply, and societal acceptability of different blue carbon finance mechanisms in Malaysia (mangroves, seagrass) and Australia (seaweed).
We give presentations on blue carbon such as at the 2021 International Blue carbon conference and we lead or contribute to science to policy papers; for example PML was the lead author on the ‘Why the Ocean Matters in Climate Negotiations briefing paper which included a focus on blue carbon and which was referenced in the UN Global Compact Briefing - Blueprint for a Climate-Smart Ocean to Meet 1.5°C and publicized in prominent articles in newsletters from the GOA-ON, Ocean & Climate Platform, Global Ocean Forum and the OA-ICC website news stream all of whom have a substantial network of followers. An Op-Ed was submitted to the Climate Champion Ocean lead for publication on the Race to Zero Website and an article published as the leading article in the Environment Journal.

Our work was recently referenced in the UK Climate Change Committee Blue Carbon Briefing paper and in the report to the Secretary of State on seaweed carbon and carbon sequestration. We were a co-author on the COP26 Universities Network briefing paper ‘Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Change, People and Biodiversityfollowing which we were invited to contribute to House of Lords  evidence submission on Nature Based Solutions (September 2021).

We contributed to the publication ‘Assessing Progress on Ocean and Climate Action: 2020-2021; A Report of the Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action (ROCA) Initiative a multi-organizational effort to bolster the recognition of the importance of oceans in the climate change process and ambition under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and endorsed the Climate Champions ‘Ocean for Climate declaration’ as well as the ‘Blue Carbon Integrating Ocean Ecosystems in Global Climate Action’.

Some example of science publications/outputs:

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People who work in this area of research

Professor Nicola Beaumont

Head of Science - Sea and Society
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Andrew Edwards-Jones

Social Scientist
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Professor Ana M Queirós

Marine and climate change ecologist
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Dr Olivia Rendón

Senior Environmental Economist
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