Ben Taylor

Salt marsh restoration and the potential to subsidise such projects with Blue Carbon

Picture1The trend of ecosystem loss or degradation is well-established. Intertidal areas are no exception to this, experiencing perhaps more than most the pressures of a modern world; with climate change induced sea level rise from the marine side to land development on the terrestrial margin – resulting in a squeezing effect and significant loss of land cover.

These ecosystems are typically of high importance and value in-terms of the goods and services they provide; both directly and indirectly benefiting human populations. In the case of saltmarsh systems the functions they provide range from the provision of biodiversity to filtration of pollutants from land runoff to sequestration of carbon to coastal protection. Recent times have seen effort gone into the restoration or creation of such systems to restore these important functions. However a limiting issue is that of the discrepancy between the costs of implementation and the some-what occasional ambiguous ‘value’ of the results – leading to a shortfall in subsidy.

The project will assess how restoration projects enhance carbon sequestration or reduce its emission in Scottish saltmarsh ecosystems and further how this trait will provide access to income generated through the blue carbon markets. The research has two main areas of focus:

Ecology of a saltmarsh – processes, impacts and carbon sequestration

I will evaluate existing approaches to the restoration of salt marshes and assess their effectiveness in terms of increased carbon sequestration and storage. Further to this I’ll also investigate the way in which carbon is stored in, transported to and exported from salt marsh systems and thus assess areas of restoration that could improve sequestration capacity.

Environmental Economics – ecosystem valuation and blue carbon markets

I will consider the way in which ecosystem services (direct or indirect) are valued, primarily those pertaining to carbon sequestrating, and how this can be accesses to generate support for management and restoration.

Both of these areas will need to include a degree of modelling to map out how and where, in this case, carbon is stored and also be used to predict future change. Furthermore an effective and efficient monitoring process must be developed to ensure the provision of accurate environmental information in the future.

The overall aim of the project is to establish a sound model that can be applied to present and future saltmarsh restoration projects and facilitate their subsidisation through blue carbon payments; resulting in a self-perpetuating system of conservation.