Blue Carbon: Fruitful Ground for Arctic Cooperation


Photo: The Royal Society

Arctic blue carbon potential is one of understudied carbon removal pathways. In comparison with green carbon stored in the biosphere, blue carbon can be found at the mouths of rivers, in coastal water bodies, deep-water areas and on the shelf. Marine vegetation has a high capacity for long-term absorption and storage of blue carbon (BC), for thousands of years, unless it is exposed to climate change and the human impact.

Although scholars recognize growing role of coastal BC ecosystems in global natural carbon management, developing evaluation standards for BC impact on climate change mitigation still look challenging. In short, not many people are engaged in these activities, having scarce data at hand.

The ongoing international studies on BC can cause confusion and may lead to unwarranted claims unless careful attention is paid to data collected by independent scholars in Russia over the past two years. You ask why?

First, Russia possesses the longest Arctic coastline and 19 types of Arctic coasts, which is more than collectively the U.S., Norway, and Canada. Obviously, Arctic expeditions deliver rigorous and credible scientific data. For instance, a team of Karelian botanists and plant physiologists investigates the vegetation of salt marshes at some coastal sites in Arctic seas. Their expeditions allow to assess the BC reserves and dynamics along the coastline of the seas in the western part of the Russian Arctic. So, no data – there is practically no chance for in-depth and comprehensive study.

Second, the Arctic Council coordinates various marine activities, including blue carbon stocks in Arctic waters, via working groups on the Arctic monitoring and assessment program, Protection of the Arctic marine environment, and the biodiversity working group Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna and their Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programs on coastal and marine ecosystems. Since all working sessions have been put on halt, the Arctic team requires renewed, flexible and participatory institutions that respond to the dynamic conditions derived from the fast-paced international environment.

The awareness of this unfavourable situation is increasing largely by efforts of non-Arctic stakeholders. In 2022, China opened international research centre on blue carbon, also UAE and Indonesia unveiled Mangrove Alliance for Climate. In addition, what fuels the interest in cooperation is that the ability to store carbon has an economic value. However, such estimates are not common for blue carbon, and not yet estimated for the Arctic Ocean.

The editorial board of The Arctic Century



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