31/07/2021 | David Speirs MP | Better Services

South Australia’s reputation as a world leader in blue carbon has been bolstered with nearly $2 million of new investment that will drive environmental and economic benefits out of restoring coastal wetlands across the state.

Blue carbon is the name given to coast and marine habitats that store carbon in either plants or soil. Coastal habitats such as saltmarshes, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests can capture carbon at a rate up to 40 times faster than forests on land and if undisturbed can store large amounts, helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.

South Australia’s coastline has great potential for coastal restoration to improve blue carbon storage.

The Marshall Liberal Government is partnering with non-government organisations to deliver nearly $2 million worth of projects to restore coastal wetlands and improve South Australian blue carbon capability and knowledge.

A $1.2 million partnership with The Nature Conservancy and COmON Foundation will restore up to 2,000 hectares of wetlands across hundreds of kilometres in St Vincent and Spencer Gulfs.

The Nature Conservancy partnership complements around $600,000 of partnerships with Green Adelaide, Flinders University and University of Adelaide will deliver four Blue Carbon Futures Fund projects to explore the value of carbon stored along Adelaide’s coastline, and how it can be enhanced by restoration.

Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said the projects would see many of the state’s coastal wetlands restored and blue carbon opportunities further realised.

“Blue carbon is brimming with potential and South Australia is poised to grab hold of the opportunities that it presents which is why the Marshall Liberal Government has developed a Blue Carbon Strategy and we are thrilled to be partnering with these organisations to deliver world-leading projects,” Minister Speirs said.

“Developing blue carbon projects presents us with multiple benefits, from significant sequestration opportunities, to strengthened resilience of our precious coastline, to habitat restoration for nationally threatened species as well as new economic opportunities.

“This is just another example of the Marshall Liberal Government taking practical action when it comes to dealing with our changing climate and builds on the work we are doing to deliver our Climate Change Action Plan 2021-25.”

Through a generous gift from the European philanthropic organisation COmON Foundation, The Nature Conservancy project will be amongst the first group of coastal wetland restoration sites funded under the Commonwealth Emissions Reduction Fund’s new blue carbon methodology. It will also lead the way in establishing blue carbon as a viable carbon abatement option.

Oceans Program Director for The Nature Conservancy Dr Chris Gillies said the partnership will accelerate Australia’s commitment to using natural solutions to reduce climate emissions and storage of carbon in coastal wetlands.

“South Australia is a leader in this area” Dr Gillies said.

“The project will also lay the foundation for leading-edge sustainable financing mechanisms for wetland protection. This includes investigating insuring nature against catastrophic events that can release carbon back into the atmosphere. If successful, this model could be applied globally and contribute significantly to reducing emissions worldwide.

“We all know that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to reduce emissions. Nature-based climate solutions such as blue carbon wetland restoration can contribute up to 30 per cent of the effort we need to make.”

COmON Foundation Chief Executive Officer John Loudon said coastal wetlands, consisting of mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes, line vast stretches of Australia’s coastlines.

“They absorb and store carbon at concentrations up to four times greater than terrestrial forests and provide countless benefits for biodiversity and local livelihoods,” Mr Loudon said.

“They protect coastal communities from flooding and are nursery areas which support commercial fisheries.

“We are particularly excited to see the potential to restore mangrove wetlands in South Australia’s unique and biodiverse gulf estuary systems.”

Below are the Blue Carbon Futures Fund projects for 2021:

Project

Project Lead

Partners

About project

Blue Carbon opportunities through tidal restoration and avoided disturbance

Flinders University

Green Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Airborne Research Australia, and  SA Department for Environment and Water

Reintroducing tidal flows to coastal areas can restore saltmarsh and mangrove habitats and also increase carbon storage. This project will figure out how much carbon can be captured by the Dry Creek salt fields when tidal flows are reconnected. This information will be used to give a dollar value to tidal flows, creating a market for restoring or protecting them. This project will also investigate how disturbances and impacts influence carbon stored in coastal environments.

Carbon storage of coastal sedgeland in relation to use of fire for habitat enhancement.

Flinders University

Green Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Ento Search.

This project will determine the amount of carbon stored in Gahnia sedgeland, a type of nationally threatened coastal saltmarsh. This habitat and, in particular, thatching grass (Gahnia filum), has been the focus of revegetation efforts to make the reintroduction of the regionally extinct yellowish sedge skipper butterfly possible. Fire and slashing seems to be important to keep the habitat suitable for the butterfly and so, this project will also explore carbon stored in various stages of burnt and unburnt sedgelands.

Advancing the mapping of Green Adelaide’s blue carbon

University of Adelaide

Green Adelaide, Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility, University of Adelaide, Flinders University.

This project will improve blue carbon maps in the Green Adelaide region by sampling carbon stocks at a range of sites. This will add to data collected about coastal ecosystems across South Australia. Drones will be used to track vegetation changes at Mutton Cove, a blue carbon site, which was re-connected to tidal flows (which can improve carbon storage) in 2016.

Potential for Zostera seagrass recovery and rehabilitation to enhance blue carbon in SA

University of Adelaide

PIRSA/SARDI Aquatic Sciences.

This project will assess whether it is feasible to use Zostera, a nearshore seagrass commonly known as eelgrass, to enhance blue carbon storage off the Adelaide coast. Nearshore seagrasses are important because they help hold sand together, reducing waves and currents, as well as providing a home and food for marine animals. The project will include assessing the right time to collect seagrass seeds and small-scale restoration trials near Torrens Island. If successful, this will open up opportunities for citizen science seagrass rehabilitation.