The Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Resilient Reef sites are crucial blue carbon ecosystems which hold a third of the carbon dioxide stored across all 50 World Heritage marine sites, according to a new UNESCO report.
The report is UNESCO’s first global scientific assessment of blue carbon ecosystems across its World Heritage marine sites. Also known as carbon sinks, these ecosystems absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it, helping reduce the rate of climate change.
UNESCO stresses the importance of initiatives such as the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Resilient Reefs Initiative – a global partnership to support World Heritage Reefs, and the communities that depend on them.
The Initiative’s five partner UNESCO sites include the Great Barrier Reef, Rock Islands of Palau, Lagoons of New Caledonia, Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and the Ningaloo Coast. These sites collectively hold 37% of the carbon stored in World Heritage marine sites.
The UNESCO Marine World Heritage – Custodians of the Globe’s Carbon Assets report also found that while the 50 World Heritage sites represent less than 1% of the world’s oceans, they host at least 21% of the world’s blue carbon ecosystem area, and 15% of the world’s blue carbon assets.
Marine World Heritage carbon stores were equivalent to about 10% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, safely keeping billions of tonnes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
Published at the start of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a founding member of, the report found that while blue carbon ecosystems are among the most threatened habitats in the world, the protection and restoration of them presents a unique opportunity to mitigate climate change.
The report also found the Great Barrier Reef stores the most carbon of the 50 World Heritage Marine sites, with seagrass meadows in our Reef alone hosting an estimated 11% of the world’s seagrass blue carbon.