The importance of carbon budgets in marine ecosystem conservation and restoration

Crooks S., Emmer I. - Silvestrum Climate Associates


‘Blue Carbon’ is a recent and rapidly developing concept that recognizes the importance of the conservation and restoration of tidal marshes, tidal forests (including mangroves) and seagrasses in the global carbon cycle. Lying at the interface between land and sea these blue carbon ecosystems are prodigious removers of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

While the richness of these ecosystems in terms of biodiversity, biomass and ecosystem services is evident it is the carbon stored in the sediment and soils accreted by these blue carbon ecosystems that is particularly noteworthy.  The gradual accumulation of organic matter in soils over thousands of years has generated rich but fragile carbon stocks. As long as blue carbon ecosystems remain undisturbed the accumulated carbon is protected from returning back to the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, these ecosystems, which are critical to the livelihoods of many coastal communities in supporting fisheries as well as providing flood protection, are being destroyed at a rapid rate. It is estimated that globally around one percent of blue carbon ecosystems are lost each year and in the process some 450 million tons of carbon dioxide are returned to the atmosphere. This is a substantial emission that is greater than that from the total economic output of a country the size of France or Italy.  The social cost and economic damage of the carbon emissions from the loss of tidal marshes, mangroves and seagrasses are estimated at around 17 billion Euros each year.

Forest clearing and excavation for construction of aquaculture ponds in the tropics is one particular cause of mangrove loss. But because these ponds have a very short lifespan before being abandoned the greenhouse gas emissions footprint of consuming just a small meal of shrimp is equivalent to driving a car over one thousand miles.

Silvestrum Climate Associates are working on innovative methods to recognize and reduce these carbon emissions. Silvestrum was founded in Europe in 2008 and expanded its business to the United States in 2016 as Silvestrum Climate Associates. Silvestrum are a ‘boutique’ consultancy group providing specialist technical services globally in the field of international climate change policy, coastal engineering, environmental science and carbon project development.     


                       A)  B)


Figure 1. A) Tidal marshes on the shores of Loch Kishorn, Northwest Scotland. Photo credits to Steve Crooks / Silvestrum Climate Associatesr; B) growing saplings in a replanted mangrove, Ambaro Bay, Northern Madagascar. Photo credits to Steve Crooks / Silvestrum Climate Associates.  

Working with the research community Silvestrum Climate Associates have assisted the United States Government to be the first country to recognize the importance of coastal wetland management in a national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks. With the Partnership for Ecosystem Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy Silvestrum Climate Associates are releasing an assessment of blue carbon opportunities for 13 countries across East Asia. Also, as part of an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) team Silvestrum Climate Associates are preparing the launch of a ‘blue natural capital facility’ to serve as incubator for a long-term public-private funds.

On the ground Silvestrum Climate Associates are helping organizations and communities on four continents to connect conservation and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems to international carbon financing.  We are also assisting local governments to evaluate risks to local communities to sea level rise and develop adaptation strategies including building with nature and ecosystem restoration. Besides blue carbon, we remain active in forest and peatland restoration and conservation.


For further information contact Steve Crooks and Igino Emmer at Silvestrum Climate Associates (