Chapter 17: Harnessing the financial value of coastal ‘blue’ carbon
Coastal habitats worldwide are under increasing threat of destruction from human activities including farming, aquaculture, wood harvest, fishing, tourism, marine operations and real estate development. This loss of habitat carries with it the loss of critical functions that coastal ecosystems provide: support of marine and terrestrial species, protection and retention of shorelines, provision of water quality and scenic beauty, to name a few. These losses are large from an ecological standpoint but they are economically significant as well (Barbier, 2007). Because the values of these ecosystem services are not easily captured in markets, those who control these lands often do not consider these values when choosing whether to clear the habitat to produce goods that can be sold in the marketplace. One possibility for changing the economic incentives to degrade coastal ecosystems is to financially connect these resources to the roles they play in the global carbon cycle and the climate system. In many cases, these coastal habitats store substantial amounts of carbon that can be released as carbon dioxide upon disturbance, thereby becoming a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. ‘Carbon markets’, developed primarily to generate financial incentives to reduce or offset carbon emissions, could create a potentially large economic incentive to convince the holders of coastal ecosystems to avoid their conversion and thus lessen the likelihood of their changing from GHG sinks to sources.
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