Blue Carbon

 Take a deep breath. And now another…
Every second breath you take comes from our oceans.


It’s often said that most of our planet’s oxygen comes from rainforests but they are actually responsible for around a third of it. The vast majority of our oxygen comes from marine plants in our beautiful blue oceans.¹ Every breath we take is connected to our oceans.

Oceans are crucial for carbon storage. Over 80% of global carbon is circulated through our ocean.²

Wetlands Mangroves Blue Carbon Storage photo by Matthew D Potenski 2011 Marine Photobank

Mangroves are an example of a marine ecosystem that stores carbon. Mangrove habitats are also critical fish nurseries. Photo by M. Potenski


Our oceans are a big blue life force. Through diverse marine ecosystems, our oceans are the world’s greatest superhero in carbon storage and sequestration. Often referred to as ‘blue carbon’,  marine ecosystems can capture and store carbon at rates almost double to terrestrial ecosystem.³

Blue carbon is the carbon stored in the following coastal and marine ecosystems:

  • Salt & Tidal Marshes – covering roughly 140 million hectares of Earth’s surface, studies have shown that restoring and rehabilitating compromised salt and tidal marches improves their ability to store carbon³
  • Coral Reefs Corals play a role in the carbon cycle, but it is ultimately the seagrass meadows and mangrove forests of our marine ecosystems that are long-term sequesters.
  • Seabed Carbon dioxide is naturally stored as carbonate sediments on the seafloor.
  • Kelp Forests Kelp forests are the ‘biological engine’ of Australia’s Great Southern Reef, which stretches around the southern half of our continent.
  • Seagrass Meadows  Seagrasses cover less than 0.2% of the ocean floor but store about 10% of the carbon buried in the ocean beds each year.
  • MangrovesMangroves are critical fish nurseries and carbon sinks, and the first line of defence against storm surges.
  • Whales & Plankton  Carbon is absorbed by phytoplankton and other tiny marine flora which our giant whales eat by the tonne capturing the carbon.


Healthy oceans are central to the fight to save our planet.

While the protection of rainforests to mitigate climate change is well known, the role of our oceans does not get as much attention. If blue carbon coastal and marine ecosystems are degraded or destroyed, these broken ecosystems will emit the carbon they have stored for centuries – further supercharging dangerous climate change with yet more greenhouse gases. We must protect and restore our blue carbon coastal and marine ecosystems.

Blue Carbon - The Unsung Heroes

Blue carbon is the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems. Well known blue carbon heroes such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal wetlands have an unmatched ability to absorb carbon pollution out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground below. But did you know that our Great Barrier Reef and whales play a big role in carbon storage? 

Click on the next tab to find out more! >>

Our very own Great Barrier Reef has been identified in a world-first study as one of Australia’s blue carbon super sites. The Reef’s seagrass meadows and mangrove forests store 111 million tonnes of carbon, or ten per cent of Australia’s blue carbon stock. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 87 million cars.⁴

Carbon is absorbed by phytoplankton and other tiny marine flora which our giant whales eat by the tonne.

Though tiny, phytoplankton capture an estimated 37 billion tonnes (40%) of all CO2 produced. That’s about the same amount captured by 1.7 trillion trees!⁵

Whales then eat phytoplankton and other tiny marine flora by the tonne. They store the carbon as they grow, stockpiling literally tonnes of carbon. The research is still underway but it is estimated that each giant whale sequesters 33 tonnes of carbon - more carbon than a 690-acre forest each in their lifetime.⁶

Blue Carbon Resources

Learn more about Blue Carbon and the impact our Oceans have on our planet. Use our Blue Carbon Posters and Booklet below to make a difference.

How Our Oceans Can Save Us Booklet

Oceans put food on our plates, provide the oxygen we breathe and regulate our climate.

Our Big Blue Superhero Poster

Print out this poster that explains 3 ways our oceans are saving our planet everyday

Blue Carbon Poster

Learn about how our oceans store carbon with this free educational poster


[1] (Falkowski et al., 2004; Arrigo, 2005; González, et al., 2008; Bowler, 2009; Simon et al., 2009).