Article image

Tidal wetlands have enormous climate change mitigation potential

Tidal wetlands and blue carbon projects are at the forefront of climate change mitigation efforts. Representing a beacon of hope, they leverage the carbon-sequestering capabilities of coastal and marine ecosystems.

Despite the growing popularity of blue carbon initiatives, the demand for credits significantly exceeds the available supply.

Traditionally, the scope of blue carbon ecosystems has been limited to mangroves, saltmarshes, and seagrass. However, emerging scientific insights reveal a broader array of tidal wetlands.

These include tidal freshwater wetlands, transitional forests, and brackish marshes, all of which share key blue carbon ecosystem characteristics. This expands the potential for climate action.

Tidal wetlands as blue carbon ecosystems

Dr. Fernanda Adame of Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute spearheaded a pivotal study that highlights the untapped potential of overlooked tidal wetlands.

The research, conducted in collaboration with international researchers from Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, Vietnam, the U.S., and Mexico, broadens the scope of ecosystems identified as blue carbon habitats.

The experts concluded that tidal wetlands, influenced by tides beneath the highest astronomical tide, embody vital blue carbon ecosystems.

After thoroughly analyzing their biophysical traits and management possibilities, the researchers discovered that these wetlands extend beyond mangroves, saltmarshes, and seagrass. They are effective in storing carbon in their soils and biomass, while emitting minimal greenhouse gases.

“By recognizing and prioritising their protection and restoration, we can unlock myriad benefits, including biodiversity conservation,” said Dr. Adame.

The role of tidal wetlands in reducing emissions

The significance of coastal wetlands in climate change mitigation cannot be overstated. They stand at the forefront of the fight against global warming, offering a pathway to significantly reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.

“By managing these ecosystems strategically, not only can we curb emissions, but we also make significant strides towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” explained Dr. Adame.

Integrating tidal wetlands into global climate strategy

Incorporating a wider variety of tidal wetlands into blue carbon initiatives offers a significant chance to enhance their carbon sink role and strengthen climate mitigation. This inclusive approach not only protects the environment but also promotes sustainable development and conservation.

Furthermore, as the scientific community calls for a reevaluation of what constitutes a blue carbon ecosystem, it’s clear that expanding our understanding and inclusion of tidal wetlands can significantly impact our global climate action strategies.

Consequently, the study represents a pivotal step in redefining blue carbon projects. It underscores the critical role of tidal wetlands in ecological and climate stability. By embracing this broader perspective, we can safeguard our environment and foster a more sustainable and resilient future.

More about blue carbon ecosystems 

Blue carbon ecosystems refer to marine and coastal habitats that play a significant role in capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, contributing to the mitigation of climate change. 

These ecosystems have unique characteristics but are collectively known for their high efficiency in sequestering carbon.


Mangroves are tropical trees that thrive in salty coastal waters. They have complex root systems that not only protect shorelines from erosion and extreme weather events but also trap sediments rich in organic carbon, known as “blue carbon.” 

Mangroves are among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics, capable of storing carbon both above and below ground in their biomass and soil.


Seagrasses are flowering plants that form dense underwater meadows in shallow seas. These meadows provide a habitat for a diverse range of marine life, stabilize the sea bed, and improve water quality. 

Seagrasses have a remarkable ability to capture CO2 from the ocean, burying it in the sediment where it can remain trapped for centuries.

Salt marshes

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands found in temperate regions, dominated by salt-tolerant grasses and other plant species. 

Like mangroves and seagrasses, salt marshes are efficient at trapping and storing carbon in their sediments. They act as natural buffers, reducing the impact of waves and storms on the coast, and support a wide variety of marine organisms.

Threats to blue carbon ecosystems 

Despite their importance, blue carbon ecosystems are under threat from human activities such as coastal development, pollution, and climate change. 

The destruction of these habitats not only releases stored carbon back into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming but also diminishes the ecosystem services they provide, including coastal protection, biodiversity support, and fisheries enhancement. 

Conservation and restoration efforts for blue carbon ecosystems are critical for climate change mitigation and for maintaining the health of marine environments.

The study is published in the journal BioScience.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day