In announcing the federal government funding Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the aim is ‘to help protect, restore, and sustainably manage Australia’s three main coastal habitats – mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes. Good for our local biodiversity, and part of our contribution to global action on climate change.’
The NSW Minister for Environment and heritage James Griffin said the NSW Strategy is perfectly timed given the new era of natural capital and the increasing demand for sustainable investment products.
‘We have more than 2,000 kilometres of NSW coastline and surrounding areas that could support the storage of additional blue carbon, which would significantly contribute to our goal of reducing carbon emissions, while restoring and rewilding our marine environment.’ he said.
Associate Professor Will Glamore, is actively engaged with one of the five federally funded projects, Blue Heart – Blue Carbon Wetland Restoration Project on the Sunshine Coast, which involves restoration of former farming land to coastal wetlands with benefits for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, flood mitigation, recreation and First Nations engagement.
Uniquely qualified and experiencedWhat is Blue Carbon?
Blue Carbon is the carbon captured by the world's ocean and coastal ecosystems.
Blue carbon ecosystems including mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes are highly effective sinks that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere faster than most land ecosystems. Moreover, they can store that carbon for very long periods of time.
In addition to carbon sequestration, blue carbon ecosystems also provide high priority habitats and countless ecosystem services such as fisheries productivity, nutrient removal, recreation and flood protection and mitigation. But up to half of the world’s coastal ecosystems have vanished over the last century, costing the planet an important weapon in the war against warming.
Australia is considered a significant global location for Blue Carbon, with estimates that 5–11% of the global coastal Blue Carbon stocks already exist here. Which is one of the reasons why, Will says, Australian expertise is highly developed here.
Twenty years’ experience on blue ecosystems research and restoration
For over twenty years the UNSW research team at WRL has been carrying out Blue Ecosystems research with a focus on best practice engineering techniques, cost-benefit economics, ecosystem services and climate change, in particular by their eco-engineering team. ‘There is great potential for large-scale Blue Carbon ecosystem restoration in Australia, particularly NSW,’ Will says. ‘Due to the geography and favourable legislative conditions, NSW has sufficient land available and can promote Blue Carbon restoration projects at a much larger scale than elsewhere.’
WRL already have several evidence-based success stories to inspire others. These include:
Big Swamp restoration project: Big Swamp is the local name for a series of drained agricultural floodplains located on the Manning River estuary on the mid-north coast of NSW. For many years, the site has been listed as one of the three worst acid sulphate soil hotspots in NSW.
WRL researchers determined priority areas for wetland creation at Big Swamp, carried out detailed innovative on-ground methods, modelled flooding impacts and undertook large scale on-ground works to successfully restore/create new wetlands. To date, the Big Swamp project has transformed over 700 hectares of degraded landscapes into functioning wetlands, including 80 hectares of new tidal wetlands. It has also elevated ground water levels above the acidic soil layer and re-inundated over 620 hectares.
Their work has turned a large acidic landscape into a new tidal wetland, and won the 2015 Green Globe Award for Natural Environment Sustainability.