Blue Carbon and Marine Carbon Sequestration in Irish Waters and Coastal Habitats

Atmospheric CO2 is rising globally. Opportunities for reducing this trend include energy sector adjustments and management of both land and ocean resources. Improved management of coastal and oceanic ecosystems is therefore poised to contribute to, and enhance, climate mitigation and adaptation.

This report outlines the emergence of blue carbon as a concept for the integration of coastal carbon dynamics into policy and management frameworks and defines blue carbon ecosystems.

It also emphasises the importance of marine carbon sequestration and highlights its potential role in climate adaptation. Ireland is estimated to store at least 9.2 Mt of carbon in its saltmarsh and seagrass habitats, which cover an estimated minimum area of 162 km2. Estimates of carbon stocks in potential blue carbon ecosystems such as macroalgae beds are hampered by lack of data on extent, productivity and actual contribution.

Irish coastal blue carbon ecosystems and their carbon sequestration capacity are currently threatened by anthropogenic factors such as land reclamation and poor water quality.

The possibility of including saltmarsh and seagrass habitats in Ireland’s National Inventory Report on GHG emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and including Ireland’s potential blue carbon ecosystems in Ireland’s Nationally Determined Contributions is highlighted.

The critical knowledge gaps and future research priorities are outlined, so that Ireland can advance the pace of scientific discovery whilst harnessing the climate change potential of its coastal and marine environment.