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Advanced Study Institute on Blue Carbon

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

Blue carbon refers to carbon stored in coastal and open ocean ecosystems, and includes those habitats, species, and processes that facilitate the uptake of atmospheric carbon into the ocean and transport that carbon into sediments or deep waters. Coastal wetlands (mangrove, seagrass, and salt marsh) are among the most productive ecosystems that sequester and store great quantities of “blue carbon” through natural capture during photosynthesis or by trapping sediments and natural debris in their complex root systems. These ecosystems account for only 0.2% of the ocean area, but the carbon deposits in sediments account for approximately 50% of the total carbon deposits in marine sediments.

An Advanced Study Institute (ASI) with the title of “Blue carbon and the role of coastal sea in carbon sequestration” was held at HKUST from April 12th to 14th. The ASI is supported by a grant from the Croucher Foundation to Prof. Hongbin Liu. It has brought a number of prominent scholars in the field to Hong Kong to give lectures for researchers in local universities and research institutes. Researchers from mainland China and other parts of the world, as well as some graduate students from Hong Kong also attended. During the workshop, we reviewed the status and the latest trends and technological advances on the research of blue carbon and other carbon sink mechanisms in the ocean, such as the biological pump and the microbial carbon pump. One of the highlights of the meeting is the connection between the blue carbon community and the open ocean community to emphasize the importance of estuaries and coastal seas in global carbon cycle and sequestration.

Efforts were made to increase the international collaboration on blue carbon research and to integrate Hong Kong into large national and global programs of carbon reduction studies, such as the Ocean Negative Carbon Emission (ONCE) led by China. Our goal is to form a working group to assess the blue carbon stocks and burial rates, including salt marsh, seagrass, and mangrove, as well as the coastal waters of Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. We will also study the effects of climate change and human activity on the carbon sequestration capacity of the coastal ecosystems and come up with an estimate of the amount of carbon that the coastal sea could sequestrate in contribution to the government’s goal to reach carbon neutral in 2050.

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