Comparative sequestration and mitigation opportunities across the Australian landscape and its primary industries

Project Number:



TierraMar Consulting

Principal Investigator:

Anissa Lawrence

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





Coastal ecosystems, in particular seagrasses, saltmarshes and mangroves are known as bluecarbon sinks and sequester and store carbon from the atmosphere at rates of up to 5 times those of tropical forests. For Australia, our coastal ecosystems also support many of our inshore fisheries, creating jobs and providing high quality seafood to Australians and more broadly. Since European settlement we have lost large quantities of our coastal ecosystems, which in turn have impacted on fisheries productivity and the sustainability of our fisheries. The Global BlueCarbon Scientific Group to which our principal investigator is an observer and our co-investigator (Catherine Lovelock) is a member, has been collectively coordinating our scientific understanding of coastal ecosystem carbon and supporting the Global BlueCarbon Policy Group to take the policy framework forward. As part of the global BlueCarbon initiative, TierraMar Consulting in partnership with UNEP/GRID-Arendal has recently commenced two collaborative Blue Carbon projects, one in SouthEast Asia, focused on the CoralTriangle, and the other in the Pacific. This project provides an opportunity for Australia to take stock of what we know in relation to the role of our coastal ecosystems in carbon sequestration, as compared to terrestrial systems at a bio regional context (temperate and tropical). It will also provide us with the base understanding: - to recognise and estimate the benefits of going beyond “Business as usual” and the sequestration opportunities inherent in remedial activities. - estimate the relative contribution of poorly managed and drained wetlands [e.g.: their methane export] and compare these values to other key primary industry sources where activities are underway to reduce emissions – e.g. livestock, manure managements. This is critical baseline information to allow us to move forward and develop a policy and management framework for coastal ecosystems for Australia to repair and conserve the ecosystem services they provide.


1. - to undertake a comparative assessment of the sequestration and mitigation opportunities across the Australian Landscape and it primary industries

2. - to provide a summary of baseline information about coastal ecossytem carbon for a Marine Adaptation Network hosted forum that will translate the findings of the comparative assessment into an Action Plan for Australia’s estuarine, nearshore and wetland ecosystems

3. - to seek support for and coordinate the Marine Adaptation Network hosted forum in partnership with a range of orther organisaitons.

Final report - 2011-084-DLD -Optimising and managing coastal carbon: comparative sequestration and mitigation opportunities across Australia’s landscapes and land uses

Final Report
Author(s):Anissa Lawrence
Date Published:December 2012

​Principal Investigator: Anissa Lawrence

Key Words: ​costal carbon, carbon, wetland ecosystems, mangroves, saltmarsh, seagrass, storage, carbon storage, carbon capture

Summary: Australia has yet to fully recognise the important role that coastal ecosystems can play in carbon management. Coastal ecosystems are not part of our National Carbon Accounts. The Australian Government Clean Energy Futures Package through the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) is only supporting farmers and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. Coastal ecosystems are the habitats or “productive farms” for our fishers, yet the Carbon Farming Initiative specifically excludes coastal ecosystems. Through these policy limitations Australia is not only limiting its carbon management options, but is ignoring many other community benefits of food production, biodiversity, flood control, coastal buffering water quality and recreational and aesthetic benefits that coastal ecosystems provide. As a direct consequence of coastal ecosystems being omitted from Australian policy, the peer-reviewed literature relating to carbon sequestration and storage within coastal wetland ecosystems for Australia is very limited compared to that available for terrestrial ecosystems and their land-uses. Contrastingly, scientific\ understanding of carbon sequestration and potential emissions from coastal wetland ecosystems globally is much higher. This body of international knowledge is sufficient for developing effective carbon management, policy, and conservation incentives for coastal carbon in Australia.

While the data we do have is generally consistent with global estimates, it is imperative that we strengthen the evidence base (the data) in order to improve the decision making process over the broad range of “blue carbon” habitats in Australia. The recognition and management of the carbon storage and sequestration potential of these coastal wetland ecosystems provides an opportunity to strengthen socio-economic resilience of Australia’s coastal communities and estuarine and marine based industries, avoids significant emissions from ecosystem degradation, while also supporting existing wetland conservation efforts.

The newly adopted definition of wetland drainage and rewetting under the Kyoto Protocol provides an immediate incentive to account for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and removals by Annex- I Parties, of which Australia is one. These represent further potential mechanisms for reducing emissions of coastal blue carbon to the atmosphere.