The Beauty of Blue Carbon


Nature’s way of helping us to clean our atmosphere…

Just like the trees and plants on land, marine environments play an important role in removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. They are known as ‘blue carbon’ habitats and we’re still learning about how important they are on the Yorkshire coast.

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Where are our ‘blue carbon’ habitats?

On the Yorkshire coast, we have a few different habitats that can absorb or ‘trap’ both organic and inorganic carbon:

  • Kelp forests – from Staithes to Flamborough, our kelp beds act like underwater forests, by drawing down carbon and releasing oxygen.  They are also provide important food and shelter for a wide range of wildlife.  Kelp forests are sometimes known as ‘ecosystem builders’ because they are so integral to other species.
  • Sediments – these include the sweeping beaches of the Holderness coast, hidden sandy coves in North Yorkshire, and much of the offshore environment which is hidden beneath the waves.  As dead animals and plants sink to the seabed, undisturbed sediments can ‘trap’ this organic carbon for many years.
  • Saltmarsh and seagrass – small amounts of saltmarsh are present in the Esk at Whitby and in the Humber Estuary, where seagrass also grows.  Whilst great at absorbing carbon, the dynamic nature of our open coast means that there are no large areas of these habitats outside of the sheltered estuaries.

It can be really difficult to map and monitor our blue carbon habitats because they are quite hard to access, it needs a lot of specialist expertise and a lot of resources.  A few national studies have been done to try and understand more about the ‘services’ we receive from the marine environment – like removing carbon from the atmosphere, or providing us with food and energy – but there’s still so much to learn!

Want to know more?