Opinion: We Must Protect And Bring Back California’s Coastal ‘Blue Carbon’ Areas

September 20, 2021

California is legendary for seashores and craggy shorelines that draw guests from all over the world and gas native economies. The coastal wetlands, seagrass meadows and kelp forests that additionally dot our shoreline are maybe much less well-known however are equally very important to our state.

These aquatic gardens present meals and shelter for fish and birds, enhance water high quality and buffer communities in opposition to extreme storms. They are additionally a important ally in our battle in opposition to local weather change.

Coastal wetlands seize carbon dioxide from the ambiance and surrounding waters and maintain this greenhouse fuel locked away—typically for hundreds of years—as “blue carbon.” And wholesome, coastal habitats equivalent to tidal wetlands can retailer as much as 5 instances the quantity of carbon per space as tropical rainforests. But when degraded or destroyed, this saved carbon is launched again into the ambiance, contributing to a warming planet.

Unfortunately, now we have lost near 90% of our coastal wetland carbon sinks over the previous 2 hundred years as a result of diking, draining, air pollution and different threats. Below the tides, eelgrass meadows and kelp forests have additionally declined due to unsustainable improvement and, extra just lately, warming ocean waters.

This has had actual and noticeable results on our wildlife, with a current report exhibiting that North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970. Our children are 3 billion birds poorer than our grandparents.

San Diego Audubon, and the ReWild Coalition of over 60 supporting group and establishments, are main an effort to assist restore a few of this lost tidal habitat and get most of the different advantages that come from pure infrastructure tasks. The ReWild Mission Bay project reveals that, with our “wildest” wetland restoration plan, we could have a shoreline extra resilient to sea stage rise, extra wildlife habitat and higher water high quality.

And there is a important human element to this restoration alternative. We’re simply beginning a project with Native American companions Renascence and Native Like Water, UC San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography to assist revitalize the Native American presence at this shoreline, the place they’ve lived since time immemorial, and start to redefine the administration and entry to this vibrant, fragile, and celebrated habitat.

With the discharge of its “Climate Smart Natural and Working Lands Strategy,” California’s Natural Resources Agency is proposing nature-based actions to maintain extra carbon saved within the floor and out of the ambiance. This technique supplies the right alternative for our state to indicate world management in defending and restoring blue carbon areas in San Diego Bay, lots of our coastal lagoons, and Mission Bay.

Key steps embrace defending and restoring close by space to permit coastal wetlands to maneuver inland within the face of rising seas, taking down limitations equivalent to dikes and dams that starve blue carbon areas of a lot wanted sediment, and decreasing air pollution of coastal waters. In addition, investing in restoration tasks like ReWild will present good-paying jobs, entry to inexperienced space for our native communities, and a possibility for our Native American group members to reconnect to our shared shoreline.

Protecting and restoring our coastal landscapes that retailer blue carbon is a no-regret measure that may profit folks and nature. San Diego ought to act now to prioritize tidal habitat restoration and the state ought to make safety and restoration of its blue carbon sinks a central pillar in its Climate Smart Strategy.

Andrew Meyer is director of conservation on the San Diego Audubon Society.


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