Blue carbon ecosystems have an important role to play in climate change mitigation. We examine the unique benefits of blue carbon and look at some of the projects being developed by our dedicated Nature-Based Solutions team.
Blue carbon ecosystems
Coastal and marine ecosystems are recognised as powerhouses for carbon sequestration and storage, being able to store two to four times more carbon than terrestrial forests. Due to the carbon storage capabilities of these ecosystems, they are described as ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems. Mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes are powerful carbon sinks yet also protect coastal communities at increased risk of flooding, improve water quality and safeguard marine life.
Despite the many benefits of blue carbon, these ecosystems are being degraded and lost by human activity and climate change at an alarming rate, ultimately hampering their role as carbon sinks.
EcoAct has a dedicated team within our Nature-Based Solutions unit, working specifically on the development of blue carbon projects. Collaborating with local partners and communities across the globe, EcoAct is developing community-based ecological restoration projects and blue carbon methodologies focused on the preservation of coastal and marine ecosystems.
Community-Based Ecological Restoration: our leading approach to preserving blue carbon ecosystems
Ecological restoration projects enhance ecosystems, recover biodiversity, and reverse degradation. These projects support climate change mitigation efforts whilst also having a positive impact on local communities and their climate resilience. Community-based ecological restoration is at the forefront of our blue carbon projects to ensure the long-term protection and longevity of these ecosystems.
EcoAct is currently working with local partners to develop blue carbon restoration projects in Mexico, India and Kenya. These projects support the restoration of mangrove ecosystems. Mangroves are considered to be the most productive and biologically diverse of all forest biomes, due to the habitats they provide for marine species and their carbon storage capabilities. However, mangroves are being lost at a rate of 2-3% per year, with between 35-50% of mangroves lost between 1980 and 2000 globally. Mangroves are under threat due to agricultural practices, infrastructure and tourism and are also typically used as fuel for traditional cookstoves.
EcoAct is not only developing restoration projects to regenerate mangrove ecosystems, but also projects that address the threats that lead to their degradation. One of the main human-driven causes of mangrove loss is fuel-wood collection and charcoal production as coastal communities have limited access to clean sources of energy. To address this, EcoAct is developing large-scale projects that combine restoration activities with the distribution of highly efficient cookstoves. These projects will reduce pressure on mangroves to restore and protect these ecosystems for future generations, as well as improve community wellbeing by reducing time spent collecting wood and indoor pollution.
Semilla Azul, our first mangrove restoration project to pass our feasibility study
Semilla Azul is a blue carbon project being developed by EcoAct and Resiliencia Azul, a Mexican women-led NGO in consortium with restoration specialists from CINVESTAV, Programa Mexicano del Carbono and The Autonomous University of Mexico. The aim of the project is to restore 5,000 hectares of mangrove forest in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
Mexico has the fourth highest mangrove cover in the world, and the Yucatán hosts some of the most unique mangrove ecosystems of all, such as the Petén, which unlike most mangroves, grows in freshwater. These mangrove forests are biodiversity hotspots – according to UNESCO1, up to 304 migratory and residential bird species have been recorded in these ecosystems. These mangroves also act as nursery areas for fish with commercial value, thereby supporting local economies and livelihoods. Resiliencia Azul, as our local partner, is working on the ground to restore these forests and secure the ecosystem services they provide.
Semilla Azul is being developed on community-owned land, with local community members at the heart of this project. As project owners, they will be involved in all stages of project development and will be trained to carry out restoration activities. Being a community-based restoration project, Semilla Azul will support the long-term sustainability of local livelihoods such as ecotourism, beekeeping, and artisanal fishing, and enhance the resilience of local communities against climate change.
EcoAct’s blue carbon experts are working with Resiliencia Azul to certify the Semilla Azul project and assist in the carbon monitoring throughout the duration of the project. On a recent visit to the Yucatán Peninsula, EcoAct experts engaged with local communities on consultation meetings and assessed the state of the degraded mangrove forests within the proposed project area.
Semilla Azul is now the first blue carbon project in our portfolio to have passed our feasibility study and will be registered under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). As part of this study, on-site audits have been undertaken and we used our EcoScore© tool to assess the viability of the project against seven different main risk criteria.
Take a look at our latest video of Semilla Azul to learn more about the project.
Developing pioneering blue carbon preservation methodologies
In addition to developing blue carbon restoration projects, EcoAct’s Project Development and Research and Innovation teams are working with local partners to develop new methodologies focused on the preservation of seagrass meadows and mangroves in French territories. The methodologies have been submitted for validation to the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, specifically to the Label bas-carbone, a standard created by the Ministry that certifies high-impact offsetting projects implemented in France.
The first methodology concerns Posidonia seagrass meadows in the Mediterranean. Seagrass meadows are rich in marine biodiversity and capture carbon at a much quicker rate than tropical rainforests. However, this type of blue carbon ecosystem is under threat.
In collaboration with Interxion, Schneider Electric France and the Calanques National Park, EcoAct’s blue carbon experts have developed the first methodology for certifying conservation and preservation measures for seagrass beds within the French Label bas-carbone framework. This project will focus on the development of a GHG emission reductions and carbon sequestration accounting methodology for Posidonia seagrass preservation. In parallel, EcoAct is working with our partners to carry out a pilot project to test the methodology within the Calanques National Park, located on the Mediterranean coast.
The second methodology concerns the restoration of mangroves and swamp/wet forests. EcoAct partnered with I4CE and EIT Climate-KIC to launch GROVE-FIT (ManGROVE protection and preservation in French Insular Territories). This project, which started in January 2020, aims to design the first methodology to facilitate the development of mangrove and wetland restoration and protection projects certified by the Label bas-carbone, including pilot projects in Martinique and Guadaloupe. This methodology is also developed in the context of the Label bas-carbone and will be validated by the Ministry of Ecological Transition in France.
EcoAct is also part of the workgroup to develop The Mexico Forest Protocol, led by Climate Action Reserve, a recognised standard that certifies offsetting projects at the North American level. The protocol aims to revise the existing methodology that certifies forestry projects, including modifications for mangrove ecosystems, for which our blue carbon team is contributing with valuable recommendations.
Finally, EcoAct is part of the Blue Carbon Coalition announced by the French President Emmanuel Macron at the One Ocean Summit on the 11th February 2022, which includes France, Costa Rica and Colombia, as well as Conservation International as the coordinator of the initiative.
Global Action to contribute to the mitigation of climate change
Blue carbon ecosystems have huge potential to help us tackle climate change. Action is needed from countries, local authorities, businesses and stakeholders to maximise their carbon sink capabilities. Through conservation activities, restoration projects, and supporting the development of blue carbon ecosystems, there are opportunities to mitigate climate change and its effects, while also protecting and involving surrounding communities.
Please get in touch with us if you are interested in developing your own Blue Carbon project, or any other nature-based solutions project.