Graham Sustainability Institute

Establishing a Blue Carbon Network for the Gulf Coast

Overview

The Gulf Coast continues to lose coastal wetlands at an alarming rate. This has negative implications for water quality, shoreline stability, habitat protection, and greenhouse gas sequestration. Coastal blue carbon is a newly recognized ecosystem service provided by coastal wetlands—including seagrass beds, mangroves, and salt marshes—to capture and store carbon. When coastal wetlands are degraded or destroyed, they release these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Bolstering awareness and valuation of blue carbon could lead to increased prioritization of coastal conservation and restoration projects, and increase public and private funding for these types of projects. Moreover, coastal managers are now being asked to consider the greenhouse gas implications of their decisions, and Gulf Coast National Estuarine Research Reserves have recently identified blue carbon as a priority topic.

This project developed a Gulf Coast blue carbon network as a platform for sharing information and coordinating efforts to develop blue carbon tools and projects in the region. End users for the project included reserve staff, local government, restoration practitioners, researchers at local academic institutions, non-profits, resource managers, and others involved in habitat protection and restoration in the Gulf region. The goal was to support the development of projects that advanced local understanding of blue carbon science, and to pilot ways to leverage blue carbon’s value to fund coastal wetland restoration and conservation.

Benefits 

This project created and strengthened relationships with the Gulf Coast reserves and stakeholders knowledgeable about blue carbon. In addition to helping stakeholders improve their understanding of blue carbon and market concepts, it improved Restore America’s Estuaries’ understanding of end user needs and interest in blue carbon, influencing future blue carbon outreach to stakeholders and identifying resource needs.

  • The project team developed a written assessment of blue carbon opportunities and needs from workshop discussions, evaluation forms, and follow-up calls. This document served as a reference in planning additional workshops and webinars.
  • A Gulf Coast blue carbon network was created to keep reserve staff and regional stakeholders involved in blue carbon efforts, and to promote their progress nationally.
  • Restore America’s Estuaries led six webinars for Gulf Coast and national audiences with topics and speakers informed by the written assessment. Webinar recordings were posted online.
  • Several of the Gulf Coast reserves developed new blue carbon pilot projects and research proposals, including a blue carbon feasibility study for mangrove restoration at the Rookery Bay Reserve and a Science Collaborative project at the Mission-Aransas Reserve exploring blue carbon outreach and communication.

Outcomes

The project resulted in a number of products, including a “Blue Carbon in Practice” webinar series for Gulf regional and national audiences.

Project lead and contact

Stefanie Simpson, Restore America’s Estuaries, Email: ssimpson@estuaries.org

To learn more, view the project factsheet (PDF).