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Communities and blue carbon: the role of traditional management systems in providing benefits for carbon storage, biodiversity conservation and livelihoods

ABSTRACT

Blue carbon refers to the considerable amounts of carbon sequestered by mangroves, seagrass beds, tidal marshes and other coastal and marine vegetated ecosystems. At the present time, carbon market mechanisms to compensate those conserving blue carbon ecosystems, and thus reducing carbon emissions, are not yet in place. The ecosystem services provided by coastal vegetated ecosystems extend beyond their carbon storage capacity, and include their contribution to fishery production; shoreline protection; provision of habitat for wildlife and migratory species; flood water attenuation; nutrient cycling, pollution buffering; as well as their cultural, spiritual, subsistence and recreational uses. Because these services are of high economic, social and cultural value, the management and protection of blue carbon ecosystems could build collaboration between climate change and biodiversity practitioners on the national and international level. Such collaboration would also allow for the transfer of lessons learned from coastal management and conservation activities to carbon mitigation projects, and would include the need to work closely together with indigenous peoples and local communities. Resulting management activities on the local level could utilize and strengthen traditional knowledge and management systems related to blue carbon ecosystems, and increase both the resilience of biodiversity and that of coastal communities, as well as provide for long-term storage of blue carbon. While the challenge of scaling up local initiatives remains, some concrete examples already exist, such as the network of locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs) in the Pacific and beyond.