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  • Writer's pictureIntelliReefs NanoTech Team

Blue Carbon Reef Innovations

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

"Coastal ecosystems must be conserved and restored as globally significant carbon sinks. Despite their small extent relative to other ecosystems, they sequester and store globally significant amounts of carbon in their soil and species, green and blue. Ongoing destruction and loss of these systems contributes to human-induced greenhouse gases. Alongside tropical forests and peatlands, coastal ecosystems demonstrate how nature can be used to enhance climate change mitigation strategies and therefore offer opportunities for countries to achieve their emissions reduction targets and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement." IUCN

Artificial reefs have the potential to enhance the rehabilitation of compromised ecosystems and degraded biological communities. The world’s oceans are home to important blue carbon ecosystems, but many of them are suffering from acute and chronic environmental disturbances. Redesigning ongoing and future marine conservation initiatives with IntelliReef technology will aid in the restoration of biodiverse, resilient, and economically important ecosystems.”

Emily C. Higgins: IntelliReefs Science & Communications Director

Blue carbon is the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems:

  • Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows sequester and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests and are now being recognised for their role in mitigating climate change.

  • These ecosystems also provide essential benefits for climate change adaptation, including coastal protection and food security for many coastal communities.

  • However, if the ecosystems are degraded or damaged, their carbon sink capacity is lost or adversely affected, and the carbon stored is released, resulting in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) that contribute to climate change.

  • Dedicated conservation efforts can ensure that coastal ecosystems continue to play their role as long-term carbon sinks.

  • Additionally, these coastal ecosystems, including coral reefs, provide numerous benefits and services that are essential for climate change adaptation, including coastal protection and food security for many communities globally. Blue Carbon initiatives hold vast promise to Oceans

The Reef Life Foundation’s goal with IntelliReefs is to create a sustainable method for coral reef carbon uptake that also provides long term funding for the MPA Marine Sites, along with additional revenue streams for local businesses through tourism-related activities. Within the next year, and in partnership with global organizations, the Reef Life Foundation will install a large scale IntelliReef system that will provide increased oceanic biodiversity to an MPA, or other test sites, create additional carbon uptake, and establish consistent revenue through fee-based tourism.

Many aquaculture and restoration projects globally focus on species-specific approaches and are limited in their capacity to increase and retain biodiversity in the target ecosystems. IntelliReefs have the ability to be adapted structurally and chemically to cater to harvested or gardened species while increasing biodiversity, amount of hard substrate, and structural complexity of the seafloor in the deployment area. Our pilot project has shown the potential of IntelliReefs to house important nutrient cycling organisms. In particular, sponges complete nutrient cycling on coral reefs and make dissolved organic material from algae and corals available to lower trophic levels [10]. Sponges and other filter-feeding animals that grow in high densities on artificial reefs act as a biofilter, and recent evidence suggests that they can be used to improve local water quality [11].

"One reason these types of projects have so much potential is that coastal ecosystems are remarkably efficient at CO2 sequestration. Although they only account for a small percentage of the Earth’s surface area, coastal ecosystems can be up to 10 times more effective at sequestering carbon dioxide on an annual per area basis than other ecosystems such as boreal, temperate, and tropical forests. Coastal carbon projects can also be implemented in many different regions of the globe, especially those with high levels of biodiversity." The benefits of blue carbon projects could get even larger depending on the price put on carbon. The IMF recently called for a global carbon tax of $75 USD per ton by 2030. With a carbon price that high, a single great whale could be valued up to $6 million USD, and CO2-sequestering coastal community projects could generate millions of dollars. Steven Lutz GRIDA

‘If this happened’, says Lutz with a smile, ‘marine conservation could become a huge for-profit business!’

"Our IntelliReef pilot project in Sint Maarten yielded macroalgal cover between 18% - 29%. For the dominant macroalgal species in the region (Dictyota sp.), this equates to a carbon uptake of 0.01 tonnes C yr-1 [12]. With our goal to create 1 million square feet of coral reef substrate by 2025, this would equate to approximately 22 tonnes sequestered per year through macroalgae growth alone.

IntelliReefs have the potential to fix and sequester carbon through: 1) macroalgal growth and future partnerships in marine aquaculture initiatives, 2) supporting resilience, biodiversity, and habitat remediation in seagrass beds and mangrove forests, and 3) increasing local biomass of phytoplankton through fish habitat construction and aggregation."

Emily C. Higgins: IntelliReefs Science & Communications Director

Photographs below are the 14 Month Deployed Oceanite IntelliReef Substrate; the recent film and science project for phase three prototype assessment was primarily funded by the Waitt Foundation

Photos below: Benthic Marine Species which have covered the IntelliReef Habitats

Below: IntelliReef Oceanite Substrate after 14 Month Deployment in MPA Sint Maarten

How can YOU get involved in Saving Ocean Ecosystems? Gift A Reef! Film IntelliReefs Deployment Left, Photos below:

Photo Credits: The Film Team which traveled to Sint Maarten late January includes the massively talented @colleenflanigan Socio-Ecological Artist bridging quantitative science and hands-on, life-saving "art as ecology." Artist/ Creative Director/ Founder at Living Sea Sculpture whose "close-ups" revealed diverse marine creatures in our @intellireefs

@michellesanders @emilychiggins and @iankellett

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