Welcome to the beginning of a new and unique scientific programme
How does the ocean impact climate change?
One of the great unsolved scientific questions of our time is how does the ocean impact climate change? The seascape is the ultimate sink for carbon emissions and, in a time of climate emergency, could be an immense ally in efforts to slow runaway planetary warming.
The role of mangroves, seagrass and saltmarsh to sequester and store carbon is increasingly recognised. But we have little idea of the carbon sequestering capacity of vast areas of the coastal shelf and the extraordinary animals and plants that live there, or how managing it differently could increase carbon storage. The sea is therefore critically undervalued and overlooked because of insufficient and inconclusive data.
One thing is certain however: we cannot solve the climate crisis without the ocean. There is a huge need for a major science initiative with the seabed at its heart.
The same impact as closing all cement and chemical works
The best estimates are that coastal waters and continental shelves could provide 6 per cent of the carbon drawdown needed to slow the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees – the same impact as closing all the world’s cement and chemical industries. Gathering accurate data to quantify how healthy seascapes thriving with life can absorb carbon has never been more timely or important.
A five-year global research programme
What do we want to find out?
How are we going to do it?
- We will sample and quantify seascape carbon in polar, temperate and tropical seas
- We will mine existing data sources and develop hydrographic models to create a global inventory of blue carbon
- We will sample seabed sediments and molecularly fingerprint them to determine the size of carbon deposits and where they came from, and to refine predictions from hydrographic models
- Field observations will be complemented by lab experiments to investigate the role of seascape life in trapping and burying carbon on the seabed, find out how human influences may disrupt these processes, and determine the benefits of seascape protection to life and carbon storage