Two years ago, in a first-ever global assessment, scientists calculated that the soils in sea grass meadows — despite being less than 0.2 percent of the world’s oceans — captured at least 10 percent of the ocean’s carbon. Since then the estimate has increased. Fred Short, a University of New Hampshire marine ecologist, puts the latest range between 12 and 20 percent. When combined with marshes and tropical mangroves, sea grasses are part of ecosystems comprising only 2 percent of ocean area — but accounting for a whopping 50 percent of ocean carbon storage.
Those discoveries are quickly elevating the concept of “blue carbon” among scientists and rapidly suggesting that these marine forests are as critical to controlling climate change as the emerald green Amazonian jungles and North American boreal expanses.