A national approach to greenhouse gas abatement through blue carbon management
© 2020 There is increasing interest in protecting, restoring and creating ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems (BCE; mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses) to sequester atmospheric CO2-C and thereby contribute to climate change mitigation. While a growing number of countries aspire to report greenhouse gas emission and carbon sequestration changes from these ecosystems under voluntary international reporting requirements, few countries have domestic policy frameworks that specifically support the quantification and financing of carbon emission abatement through BCE management. Australia, as home to approximately 5–11% of global blue carbon stocks, has a substantial interest in the development of blue carbon policy. Here we assess the potential inclusion of blue carbon within Australia's Emissions Reduction Fund, emphasizing issues and approaches that have global relevance. We used a participatory workshop of scientific experts and carbon industry stakeholders to identify blue carbon management actions that would meet the requirements of the Fund. In total, twelve actions were assessed for their greenhouse gas emission abatement potential and the ability to measure abatement reliably, using a combination of available data and qualitative and quantitative methods, including expert knowledge. We identify and discuss the five most relevant and promising activities, encompassing the protection, restoration and creation of mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses. On a per area basis, mean abatement intensity of organic carbon (Corg) was highest for the (re)introduction of tidal flow resulting in establishment of mangrove (13–15 Mg Corg ha−1 yr−1) and tidal marsh (6–8 Mg Corg ha−1 yr−1), followed by land use planning for sea-level rise for the creation of new mangrove habitat (8 Mg Corg ha−1 yr−1). The avoided disturbance of existing mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses has the twofold benefit of avoiding remineralisation of existing stocks, plus the future annual abatement associated with the net sequestration of atmospheric CO2-C as Corg with the continued functioning of these BCE. Our approach offers a template that uses best available information to identify options for carbon abatement through management of coastal landscapes, and details current knowledge gaps and important technical aspects that need to be considered for implementation in carbon crediting schemes.