Republished from the Bass Coast Post with permission
Local “blue carbon” projects to maintain and restore mangrove, seagrass and saltmarsh ecosystems in Western Port could make a major contribution to meeting local and national targets of net zero carbon emissions.
These marine ecosystems are capable of capturing carbon up to 30 and 50 times faster than terrestrial forests, locking it into the marine sediments for thousands of years.
The Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation has partnered with the seven member councils of the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance (SECCCA) and Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab to build on research already undertaken along Victoria’s coastline.
The Blue Carbon Lab will examine how investment in local projects of marine ecosystem protection and restoration could optimise carbon sequestration and storage.
The new study will focus on Western Port and the eastern edge of Port Phillip Bay, both areas with existing blue carbon assets, and with potential for even greater capacity for carbon capture through the restoration of areas already damaged or lost.
Biosphere Foundation CEO Mel Barker said funding from SECCCA’s member councils, including Bass Coast, would help ensure that future and more significant investments into blue carbon would yield positive returns for local communities, the climate and sustained biodiversity. “This research will help build awareness that the conservation and restoration of our coastal ecosystems is indispensable to help us adapt and mitigate to climate change.
“Not only could future investment make a substantial contribution to Australia achieving net zero carbon, but it would also help enhance marine biodiversity in the bays and support sectors like recreation, tourism and fishing,” she said. Marine ecosystems can capture carbon up to 30 and 50 times faster than terrestrial forests and store it for thousands of years. Bass Coast Mayor Michael Whelan, who chairs SECCCA, said participating councils would derive substantial benefit from access to evidence-based guidance for future environmental planning and programs for blue carbon ecosystems.
“Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab is one of the world’s leading centres for blue carbon research, focussed in quantifying the capacity of our coastal and marine environments to help offset carbon emissions, especially in the region most relevant to our bayside councils.”
The head of Blue Carbon Lab, Professor Peter Macreadie, said the project would deliver a valuable roadmap for future investment in blue carbon ecosystem restoration, supported by comprehensive maps of existing habitat, suitable areas for coastal wetland restoration and other co-benefits deriving from these ecosystems (eg. coastal protection, fisheries, improvement of water quality).
“With the support of the Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation and SECCCA, this project will be crucial to understand the blue carbon opportunities at local and regional scale within the Western Port Biosphere Reserve and South East Councils Climate Change Alliance region.”
“We expect that our project will identify the areas within this region that are suitable to deliver productive blue carbon projects and biodiversity outcomes with the right level of investment and evidence-based project planning and management,” he said.