Prelims 2021

Q. What is blue carbon?

a) Carbon captured by oceans and coastal ecosystems
b) Carton sequestered in forest biomass and agricultural soils
c) Carbon contained in petroleum and natural gas
d) Carbon present in atmosphere

Correct Answer: a) Carbon captured by oceans and coastal ecosystems

Question from UPSC Prelims 2021 GS Paper

Explanation : 

What is Blue Carbon?

Blue carbon refers to the carbon captured and stored by the world’s ocean and coastal ecosystems, primarily by mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes. These coastal habitats are highly efficient at sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and trapping it within plant matter and sediment for long periods, potentially for thousands of years.

Key Points About Blue Carbon

High Sequestration Rates: Coastal vegetated habitats sequester carbon at rates much higher than terrestrial forests. Although they cover less than 0.5% of the seafloor, their contribution to long-term carbon storage is significant.

Carbon Storage: The carbon stored in these ecosystems is found both in the biomass above ground (leaves, branches, and trunks) and below ground (roots and soils). The anaerobic (low-oxygen) conditions of water-saturated soils in these habitats slow down the decomposition of organic material, leading to the accumulation of carbon-rich sediments.

Benefits Beyond Carbon: Beyond carbon sequestration, blue carbon ecosystems provide a range of other benefits, including coastal protection from storms and erosion, water filtration, and serving as critical habitats for marine life, including commercially important fish species.

Threats: Blue carbon ecosystems are threatened by human activities such as coastal development, pollution, overfishing, and climate change. When these ecosystems are degraded or destroyed, not only is their capacity to absorb CO2 reduced, but the carbon stored in them can also be released back into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Conservation and Restoration: Efforts to protect and restore blue carbon ecosystems can provide climate mitigation benefits while also preserving biodiversity and supporting coastal resilience. International initiatives and frameworks, such as the Paris Agreement, increasingly recognize the importance of blue carbon in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Research and Policy: There is ongoing research to better quantify the amount of carbon stored in these ecosystems and to understand how different management practices might impact their carbon sequestration potential. Policymakers are also working to integrate blue carbon into national and international climate policies and carbon markets.

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