Climate change benefits of carbon-absorbing ecosystems

An Alaska marsh is shown in this 2010 image. The carbon-absorbing qualities of marshes, mangroves and seagrasses would be studied under a bill sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is co-sponsoring a blue-carbon initiative that will invest $15 million a year to create a national map of mangroves, seagrasses and other coastal ecosystems that naturally store greenhouse gases and reduce climate change.

The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act also instructs the National Academy of Sciences to assess carbon dioxide storage in deep seafloor environments and “coastal carbon markets.”

The legislation calls for a comprehensive review of the long-term effects on marine life of containing carbon dioxide (CO2) in a deep sea environment. The deep sea naturally stores CO2 produced by human activities and absorbs the heat from surface waters.

The bill would report on existing CO2 storage technologies as well as work on and paths to innovations for removing dissolved CO2 from seawater that include filters, “phase change systems” and other engineered processes. The academy would also study and report on using microscopic algae and coastal wetlands for carbon storage.

Mapping blue carbon ecosystems

According to Murkowski’s office, the Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act focuses on the need to better understand so-called blue carbon ecosystems, which serve as nature’s buffer for coastal communities.

The ecosystems span mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrasses and kelp forests. They stop erosion, filter pollution from the water and serve as a fish habitat. The coastal plants absorb carbon dioxide from the water and air. CO2 is stored in the trunks, stems, leaves, roots and soil.

“Blue carbon ecosystems have great potential to help mitigate the impacts of climate change in Alaska and elsewhere,” Murkowski said in a prepared statement. “By protecting our shorelines from coastal erosion, storing incredible amounts of carbon, and helping to address ocean acidification, these ecosystems are a significant asset in our efforts to protect the planet.”

She noted climate science research taking place in Alaska to gain knowledge from carbon storage naturally occurring in the environment.

“This bill will strengthen our ability to better understand how to safeguard them,” she said.

The following are highlights of the legislation. The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act would:

· Establish a working group on coastal blue carbon, chaired by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator.

· Direct the working group to coordinate the national map of coastal blue carbon ecosystems, including carbon sequestration potential and net greenhouse gas reductions.

· Direct the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution to facilitate the long-term use of—and incorporation of assets into—the Coastal Carbon Data Clearinghouse.

· Instruct the NOAA administrator to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to assess carbon dioxide storage technologies in the deep seafloor environment.

· Authorize $15 million to the NOAA administrator for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026 to support its initiatives.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or at Follow her at

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