Saltmarsh ecosystems – helping to tackle climate change and protect coastal homes

Dept of Climate Change, Energy, Environment & Water

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water

The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP, Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury


New data has shown that saltmarsh ecosystems are protecting over 88,000 homes from storm surges, and sequestered about 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2021.

Saltmarshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tide.

This information comes from the second phase of the Australian Government’s National Ocean Ecosystem Account, released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Phase two has focused on carbon storage, gross carbon sequestration and coastal protection benefits of Australia’s saltmarshes, which are considered to be blue carbon ecosystems.

There are over 1 million hectares of saltmarsh in Australia, an area larger than Greater Melbourne.

They help protect about 3,600 kilometres of coastline from storm surges, which is 3 times the length of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The National Ocean Ecosystem Account can inform nature-based solutions to tackle climate change and help us adapt to our changing climate.

Mangrove and saltmarsh ecosystems combined sequestered over 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2021.

The replacement cost of the combined coastal protection services of mangroves and saltmarsh was estimated to be over $225 billion, with over 149,000 homes and over 280,000 people benefiting from this service.

At the UN Oceans Conference earlier this year the Albanese Labor Government announced Australia will help restore blue carbon ecosystems across Australia, including saltmarsh ecosystems, by investing $9.5 million to support five new practical restoration projects.

This new data is the result of a strong partnership between the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and can help inform evidence-based policy.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP:

“Over 19,000 kilometres of our coastline are being protected from storm surge by mangrove and saltmarsh ecosystems – if these were lost it would cost over $225 billion to replace their coastal protection services with sea walls.

“These ecosystem accounts can help to tackle climate change.

“These ecosystems have the added benefit of supporting marine life, contributing to coastal livelihoods, and providing protection from storm surges.

“But they also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their soils, roots and plants.

“This new data clearly shows how important they are, and how many of us living along the coast of Australia benefit, possibly without even realising.”

Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, the Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP:

“The partnership between the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water continues to deliver vital information to manage our coastal environments.

“Stories emerging from the data tell us how ocean ecosystems interact with Australians.

“The National Ocean Account provides evidence-based information to help us protect ecosystems and the benefits they provide.”

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