Why Saving Marshes Might Save Civilization

By Christopher Pollen, July 30, 2012

In February of this year, scientists identified what may be the oldest living organisms on Earth: a gnarled mass of aquatic seagrass off the coast of Spain, thought to be 200,000 years old. About 8,000 kilometres away, in the estuary of the Squamish River, a gumbooted army of volunteers attempts to restore a once broad seagrass meadow, long ago destroyed by log booming.

What the two aquatic gardens a hemisphere apart share is the potential to store more carbon than the thickest swathe of Amazonian rainforest, nurturing as much life concentrated into a smaller footprint. And while forests hold carbon for centuries at best, the sediments below such aquatic meadows can store carbon for millennia.

Coastal marine environments like seagrass meadows, salt marshes and mangroves (known collectively as "blue carbon") are just beginning to attract attention for all the free services they provide to humanity, most notably a seemingly supernatural capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Not a single blue carbon offset project yet exists anywhere in the world. James Tansey, CEO and co-founder of Offsetters Clean Technology Inc. believes it's a lack of knowledge that is holding us back.

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