Over 97 percent of the water on Earth is salt water in the oceans. The ocean is one of the largest carbon sinks on Earth, taking up a third of the carbon emitted by human activity. In addition, carbon is also sequestered by coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes. This is known as Blue Carbon.
Oceans and coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, capture and store carbon. Salt marshes and mangrove forests are particularly good at sequestering carbon because in addition to holding carbon in the living plant matter (as all plants do), they retain dead plant matter which capture carbon within sediments built up over time. Because of this, these systems are capable of burying large amounts of carbon over a long time period if the ecosystems remain stable.
Carbon sequestration in freshwater ecosystems is more complicated as they are often a carbon sink; however, freshwater marshes can, at times, emit methane, another powerful greenhouse gas.
The fresh water we use comes from beneath the Earth’s surface (groundwater) or from lakes and rivers. Aside from clean water, healthy watersheds provide climate regulation and healthy soils.
Protecting all of these systems is crucial, as they play a significant role in habitat conservation and ecological resiliency. They can also become a source of carbon emissions (emitting huge amounts of carbon back into the atmosphere) when they are damaged.
The Northeast Carbon Alliance has formed a water systems working group to define the relationships between various water systems with respect to how carbon is sequestered or released, where knowledge gaps exist, and what role Blue Carbon could play in the preservation of these valuable natural ecosystems.
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies generates rigorous scientific knowledge about ecological systems and their importance to human well-being.learn more
The Ecosystems Center was founded four decades ago to investigate the structure and functioning of ecological systems and to predict their response to changing environmental conditions. At that time the changing global carbon cycle was just becoming recognized as an urgent environmental issue and became one of the focal points for research at the Center.learn more
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is the world's leading, independent non-profit organization dedicated to ocean research, exploration, and education. Our scientists and engineers push the boundaries of knowledge about the ocean to reveal its impacts on our planet and our lives.learn more
The Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve’s mission is to improve the health and resilience of the Hudson River Estuary by conserving estuarine habitats through integrated education, training, stewardship, restoration, monitoring and research programs.learn more
The New York - New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) brings the benefits of the Clean Water Act to the people who live, work, and recreate on our shared waterways. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the request of the governors of New York and New Jersey, HEP is an ongoing effort to develop and implement a consensus driven plan to protect, conserve and restore the estuary. HEP decisions and activities are carried out by staff and partners organized through the committees and work groups.learn more