Grants lead way for blue carbon investment

News release
24 February 2020

Three research projects which will explore the potential for blue carbon sites from the Fleurieu through to Adelaide’s northern coastline have been awarded $240,000 in grant funding.

Blue carbon is carbon from the atmosphere which becomes incorporated into coastal ecosystems, mostly in the plants and/or sediments of saltmarshes, mangroves and seagrasses.

Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said blue carbon presented an exciting opportunity for South Australia to accelerate action to protect and restore coastal ecosystems.

“The Marshall Liberal Government has developed a Blue Carbon Strategy for South Australia which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality and biodiversity and increasing nature-based tourism opportunities,” said Minister Speirs.

“If these habitats become degraded they increase emissions through the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“The three projects which have been awarded $240,000 in grant funding are a stepping stone to restoring and protecting Adelaide’s coastal environments.

“The projects will increase our understanding of the real carbon storage potential of coastal habitats and they will also help our understanding of carbon market opportunities.

“This knowledge will help enable coastal managers to take advantage of future carbon market opportunities, for example, through a national blue carbon credit scheme.”

The $240,000 funding is being delivered by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board as part of its Blue Carbon Futures Grants program.

The projects involve significant collaboration and co-investment across universities and researchers, and the NRM board’s $240,000 investment has leveraged projects with a combined value of over $660,000.

The NRM board’s Blue Carbon Futures Fund supports regional initiatives to implement the State Government’s Blue Carbon Strategy for South Australia.

The board has awarded grants to three projects which will study potential sites for blue carbon opportunities across the region.

Additional funding is also going into protection of local saltmarsh and other blue carbon habitats. The AMLR NRM Board has undertaken significant investment in conservation and restoration of coastal habitats over the last decade and has invested significantly in previous blue carbon investigations and demonstration projects with partners in the region.

The Blue Carbon Futures Grants are funded from the NRM levy.

AMLR Blue Carbon Futures Fund projects

Mapping coastal wetland blue carbon potential in the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management region.

Lead organisation: Adelaide University.

This project will generate a map of Blue Carbon Potential (BCP) across the AMLR NRM region. The mapping will provide an assessment of blue carbon stocks and sequestration rates. The work will prioritise sites for further field-based blue carbon assessment, and identify sites where coastal wetland restoration can generate the greatest blue carbon benefits. Mapping using spatial modelling will incorporate data on the many variables known to influence blue carbon stocks. Existing and new sediment cores will be examined from saltmarsh and mangroves in the region to evaluate blue carbon potential. This project will act as proof-of-concept for the BCP mapping approach for coastal wetland ecosystems across SA. It will be the first step towards a state-wide map of blue carbon, which is a specific action item for the implementation of the Blue Carbon Strategy.

A Blue Carbon future through introducing tidal flow to salt ponds and stranded saltmarsh for Dry Creek and the Samphire Coast.

Lead organisation: Flinders University.

This project will assess the blue carbon futures for Dry Creek and stranded saltmarsh habitats in the Gulf St Vincent. Stranded marshes are those that have been cut off from tidal flows by levees or other developments. Reinstating tidal flows allows saltmarshes and mangroves to be restored and their health improved, but can also provide important feeding areas for migratory shorebirds. The assessment will involve technical review of restoration options for the salt field, considering potential carbon credits, co-benefits, land tenure, financial and legal issues and social acceptance. As well as previous work the project will integrate new scientific data on carbon captured in soil and vegetation from a previous tidal flow reintroduction project at the Dry Creek salt field. Experiments will contribute to a solution on how to include accumulating seagrass wrack for carbon accounting. The project will also look at the changes in biodiversity, including vegetation, invertebrate and fish in reconnected tidal wetlands to assess ecological benefits of future Blue Carbon projects. Outcomes of this project will inform all four objectives of the Blue Carbon Strategy and support more immediate decision-making on the future of the Dry Creek salt field.

Potential for Zostera seagrass recovery and rehabilitation to enhance blue carbon.

Lead organisation: Adelaide University.

The project will assess the extent of carbon accumulation in seagrass meadows, and look at how quickly carbon storage changes with natural recovery. This work will focus on “eelgrass” or Zostera that occur in shallow and intertidal waters in the Adelaide area, and will also, and the feasibility of using seed-based restoration to enhance recovery. Seabed cores from selected meadows in the Port River and Adelaide metropolitan coast will be collected and analysed to assess carbon stocks. The project will also map historical changes in seagrass distribution over time, in order to core meadows of known age and determine the extent of Zostera habitat. As well as underwater video and dive surveys, drones will be used to map intertidal areas to provide a precise baseline for assessing future changes in eelgrass, and look at areas where recovery has been reported. The project seeks to better understand the biology of eelgrass, such as local timing and extent of seeding, to lay the groundwork for future seed-based restoration trials.

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