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World - Reducing the ecosystem-based carbon footprint of coastal engineering

Greenhouse gas emissions from coastal engineering do not only involve emissions from (dredging) vessels, but also from impacting sediments and coastal ecosystems.

A new report by Wetlands International, developed with Witteveen+Bos and Deltares, outlines a simplified methodology for quantifying the ecosystem-based carbon footprint of coastal engineering projects.

The developers also present potential options to reduce the carbon footprint, including through Nature-based Solutions.

With the report ‘‘Reducing the ecosystem based carbon footprint of coastal engineering’, the authors aim to facilitate discussions among those that commission, finance, design or implement projects towards more climate and ecosystem friendly coastal engineering.

Carbon rich ecosystems

Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, sea grass meadows, salt marshes and unvegetated intertidal wetlands contain sediments that are often rich in organic carbon. Mangroves for example, typically hold five times as much carbon as a similar area of rainforest, with most of the carbon stored within the sediment.

Interference with the carbon cycle of sediments and ecosystems

Coastal engineering projects like land reclamation, port development and coastal protection involve activities that interfere with the carbon cycle of sediments and coastal ecosystems, which can result in significant emissions, both on or off-site.

This includes dredging and displacement of sediment, or activities that change the hydrological or sedimentation dynamics. Under some circumstances such disturbance causes previously sequestered carbon to be emitted as greenhouse gases.

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