Coastal Training Program coordinator
What color is carbon? Black, obviously, if you are thinking about coal mines. Carbon is called green by those who think about Oregon’s temperate rain forests, where towering firs and cedars are able to store large amounts of carbon as wood. Now scientists who think about oceans and estuaries are becoming aware of a different color of carbon – blue carbon.
That’s the name the scientists use to describe carbon that is sequestered, or stored, in the sediments of salt marshes, sea grasses, and mangroves.
In January, in partnership with Restore America’s Estuaries, a national non-profit organization that supports coastal wetland restoration, South Slough’s Coastal Training Program will host a workshop for coastal managers and wetland scientists to learn more about blue carbon, and its role in mitigating the emission of carbon dioxide. Carbon is a major component of all living things. Carbon dioxide is one of several so-called greenhouse gasses; it plays a significant role in warming Earth’s atmosphere and changing climate.
Some prefer the term coastal blue carbon to refer more specifically to carbon storage in estuaries. Whatever term they use, ecologists are becoming aware that salt marshes, sea grass beds, and mangroves can sequester carbon dioxide at rates that, acre for acre, greatly exceed those of temperate rain forests.
Of course Oregon does not have mangroves, but salt marshes, for example, are particularly efficient at storing carbon dioxide. That’s because each fall, when a salt marsh dies back, its detritus is buried in oxygen-free sediments, where it accumulates year after year, and the lack of oxygen prevents the carbon from oxidizing and escaping to the atmosphere. A salt marsh stores even more carbon than what it produces, because it is constantly sequestering organic matter brought in from far away by the tides.
Scientists are learning that carbon stored in the oxygen-free sediment of a salt marsh can remain undisturbed for thousands of years. An old-growth fir or cedar stores carbon dioxide for a few centuries at most, and when it dies and decays, or burns, the carbon returns to the atmosphere. Of course, if a salt marsh is diked and drained, or if its soil is exposed to the air as a result of geologic uplift, the carbon-rich sediments will oxidize and carbon dioxide once again will be emitted.
January’s workshop will also explore ways to realize both ecologic and economic values from blue carbon. As scientists and decision makers learn more about carbon sequestration, blue carbon, and the potential value of carbon as a manageable natural resource, they will be better equipped to help Oregonians, and especially coastal communities, adapt to the new world of climate change.
In coming months, we’ll report back to share more information about blue carbon, and summarize the results of January’s workshop. If you are interested in learning more on your own, use the links below to explore blue carbon on the World-wide Web.
The Coastal Training Program is a specialized branch of South Slough’s Education Program that provides training, information, and technical assistance to coastal managers and others whose day-to-day decisions affect the coast’s natural resources.
For more information about blue carbon see:
Mcleod, E., G. L. Chmura, S. Bouillon, R. Salm, M. Björk, C. M. Duarte, C. E. Lovelock, W. H. Schlesinger, and B. R. Silliman, 2011. A Blueprint For Blue Carbon: Toward an improved understanding of the role of vegetated coastal habitats in sequestering CO2. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2011; 9(10): 552–560, doi:10.1890/110004 (published online 20 June, 2011).
Emmett-Mattox, S., 2012. Coastal Blue Carbon: A new opportunity for wetlands conservation. Presentation for the NOAA Library Seminar Series presented at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, MD. September 17, 2012.
Sifleet, S., L. Pendleton, and B.C. Murray, 2012. State of the Science on Coastal Blue Carbon: A summary for policy makers. Report NI R 11-06. Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University, Durham, N. C. 27708.
Summer 2013 not only brought fog, wind, and sunshine to the South Slough, four interns also swept by to leave their mark on the estuary. Science interns Kevin Kuhl and Sam Stroebel assisted us for the months of June-August, restoring oysters, monitoring eelgrass, and establishing GPS benchmarks. Kuhl, an Arizona native and recent college graduate from Northern Arizona University, spent most of his time tagging and tracking disease-resistant Port Orford Cedars. Stroebel, a college student from Ohio, gained hands-on experience with a variety of science projects, and is returning to Ohio State to begin his junior year in Environmental Science.
Every Monday afternoon, intern Mackenzie Litts assisted FOSS volunteer, Laura Mays, with accounting projects. Litts, who lived in Lakeside for the summer, learned how to manage Quickbooks and the budget. Litts, an accounting student at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, eventually wishes to work for a top accounting firm, but because she is also interested in environmental issues, she saw this opportunity as a perfect combination of her interests.
Unfortunately, aquaria intern, Maddie Budesilich, returned to her hometown near Portland early this month due to an injury. Even though she only joined us for about three weeks, Maddie helped out considerably under the mentorship of Education Coordinator, Tom Gaskill. Maddie, 16, cleaned the tanks and fed the animals in the aquaria at the interpretive center. She also assisted with the camps and workshops, and learned about the wetlands and salt marshes. Maddie thought South Slough was a perfect fit since she is interested in marine biology and was living with her grandparents in Coquille for the summer. Maddie eventually wishes to attend a university to study marine mammals.
These interns will be missed at the reserve, but South Slough is currently recruiting for the fall 2013. If anyone knows any eager future scientists or estuary lovers in (or out of) town, let us know! The work experience program needs to keep rolling, and we are always eager for more help, with new opportunities to conduct social science research and climate and energy assessments.
-Maggie Allen, AmeriCorps VISTA/work experience program developer
Coast to Coast - Eco Geek Webinars Share the Story of Native Oyster Restoration
Earlier this year, the GTM NERR near Jacksonville, Florida joined forces with South Slough to develop four web-based workshops designed to educate docents and the public about the value of native oyster restoration. The workshops used an innovative distance education approach incorporating Smart TV technology at the GTM NERR visitor center and live webcasts from the South Slough NERR to share expertise. The presentations experimented with three different distance learning technologies: Skype, WebEx, and Google Air to explore sharing of live narrated presentations and dialogue between researchers and audiences located in both Florida and Oregon.
Google Air, a program that incorporates YouTube streaming channel capabilities and Google Hangout allowed presenters to share screens and information while attendees watched via a YouTube link. The subscription to a YouTube channel allows the viewers to be notified when the program is live and on-air or an archive of the presentation is made available shortly following the airing.
Presentations featured research being conducted by three graduate students working on various aspects of native oyster restoration. South Slough’s water quality data was presented by Ali Helms, South Slough NERR SWMP Coordinator, who uses environmental monitoring stations to determine where oyster restoration projects should take place within South Slough. The final webinar featured a joint discussion between Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish program leader Steve Rumrill and South Slough education coordinator Tom Gaskill concerning research conducted by former Graduate Research Fellow Matthew Gray on “The Filtration Services of Native Olympia Oysters (Ostrea lurida).