pp 1–12 | Cite as

Blue Carbon: an Additional Driver for Restoring and Preserving Ecological Services of Coastal Wetlands in Tampa Bay (Florida, USA)

  • Lindsey Sheehan
  • Edward T. Sherwood
  • Ryan P. Moyer
  • Kara R. Radabaugh
  • Stefanie SimpsonEmail author
Landscape Approaches to Wetland Management


Coastal habitats, including mangroves, salt marsh, and seagrass meadows, provide numerous ecosystem services, including improved water quality, shoreline stabilization, and essential fish habitat. Over the past few decades, the quantification of greenhouse gas fluxes in wetlands has improved, leading to the recognition of these habitats as long-term carbon sinks. Quantifying this “blue carbon” as an ecosystem service provides added value for wetland protection and restoration and serves as a useful management tool when implementing plans for sustained ecosystem health and productivity. Tampa Bay (Florida, USA), a highly urbanized estuary, provides an interesting case study to assess the role of blue carbon in supporting management and informing restoration decisions. This review provides results from the Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Assessment, which quantified existing carbon stocks and identified the future carbon sequestration trajectories of coastal habitats with respect to climate change and sea-level rise. Examples are provided of how these data can be used to prioritize restoration efforts, support and enhance management decisions, and potentially attract new partners to support wetland restoration projects that offer additional climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits. This added valuation can help drive investment towards additional wetland restoration activities to help meet management targets in estuaries worldwide.


Blue carbon Coastal wetlands Sea-level rise Habitat restoration Habitat management Ecosystem services 



This effort is drawn from components of the Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Assessment (Sheehan and Crooks 2016). Funding was provided by the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund, NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Scotts Miracle-Gro. R. Moyer and K. Radabaugh are grateful for additional funding provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Florida State Wildlife Grants program administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration section of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. E. Sherwood is grateful for partial funding provided through U.S. EPA Section 320 Grant Funds and local government contributions to the TBEP’s operating budget (Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas Counties; the Cities of Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa; Tampa Bay Water; and the Southwest Florida Water Management District). The authors also thank two anonymous reviewers and editors for their thoughtful comments in improving this paper.


  1. A Critical Investment in ‘Blue Carbon’ (2018) Conservation International, 2018, Accessed 28 Nov 2018.
  2. Alongi DM (2014) Carbon cycling and storage in mangrove forests. Annual Review of Marine Science 6(1):195–219. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbier EB, Hacker SD, Kennedy C, Koch EW, Stier AC, Silliman BR (2011) The value of estuarine and coastal ecosystem services. Ecological Monographs 81:169–193. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Breithaupt JL, Smoak JM, Rivera-Monroy VH, Castañeda-Moya E, Moyer RP, Simard M, Sanders CJ (2017) Partitioning the relative contributions of organic matter and mineral sediment to accretion rates in carbonate platform mangrove soils. Marine Geology 390:170–180. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chamber LG, Davis SE, Troxler T, Boyer JN, Downey-Wall A, Scinto LJ (2014) Biogeochemical effects of simulated sea level rise on carbon loss in an Everglades mangrove peat soil. Hydrobiologia 726:195–211. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cicchetti G, Greening H (2011) Estuarine biotope mosaics and habitat management goals: an application in Tampa Bay, FL, USA. Estuaries and Coasts 34:1278–1292. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cross L, Kaufman K, Sherwood E, Ellis W, Miller C, Courtney F, Radabaugh K (2017) Chapter 4: Tampa Bay. In: Radabaugh KR, Powell CE, Moyer RP (eds) Coastal habitat integrated mapping and monitoring program report for the state of Florida. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish And Wildlife Research Institute Technical Report No. 21. 58–70. Accessed 13 March 2019
  8. Dahl TE, Stedman SM (2013) Status and trends of wetlands in the coastal watersheds of the conterminous United States 2004 to 2009. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, 46 p. Available via Accessed 15 March 2019
  9. Deitche S, Willis D, Schmutz D, Menendez R (2015) Channels A, G, and Rocky Creek Pilot Monitoring Project Report. Technical Report #05–16 of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. Accessed 22 Mar 2018
  10. Doughty CL, Langley JA, Walker WS, Feller IC, Schaub R, Chapman SK (2016) Mangrove range expansion rapidly increases coastal wetland carbon storage. Estuaries and Coasts 39(2):385–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elsey-Quirk T, Seliskar DM, Sommerfield CK, Gallagher JL (2011) Salt marsh carbon pool distribution in a mid-Atlantic lagoon, USA: sea level rise implications. Wetlands 31(1):87–99. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Emmer IM, Needelman BA, Emmett-Mattox S, Crooks S, Megonigal JP, Myers D, Oreska MPJ, McGlathery KJ, Shoch D (2015) Methodology for tidal wetland and seagrass restoration. VCS Methodology VM0033, v 1.0. Verified Carbon Standard, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  13. Enwright NM, Griffith KT, Osland MJ (2016) Barriers to and opportunities for landward migration of coastal wetlands with sea-level rise. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14(6):307–316. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ewe SM, Gaiser EE, Childers DL, Iwaniec D, Rivera-Monroy VH, Twilley RR (2006) Spatial and temporal patterns of aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) along two freshwater-estuarine transects in the Florida Coastal Everglades. Hydrobiologia 569(1):459–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) Living Shoreline-Tampa Bay (Story Map). (2017) Available via Accessed 5 Mar 2017
  16. Gerlach MJ, Engelhart SE, Kemp AC, Moyer RP, Smoak JM, Bernhardt CE, Cahill N (2017) Reconstructing common era relative sea-level change on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Marine Geology 390:254–269. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Geselbracht L, Freeman K, Kelly E, Gordon DR, Putz FE (2011) Retrospective and prospective model simulations of sea level rise impacts on Gulf of Mexico coastal marshes and forests in Waccasassa Bay, Florida. Climate Change 107:35–57. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Geselbracht L, Freeman K, Birch A, Gordon D, Knight A, O’Brien M, Oetting J (2013) Modeling and abating the impacts of sea level rise on five significant estuarine Systems in the Gulf of Mexico, final report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Gulf of Mexico Program, Project # MX- 95463410-2. The Nature Conservancy. Available via Accessed 15 March 2019
  19. Geselbracht L, Freeman K, Birch AP, Brenner J, Gordon DR (2015) Modeled Sea level rise impacts on coastal ecosystems at six major estuaries on Florida’s Gulf Coast: implications for adaptation planning. PLoS One 10(7):e0132079. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Glick P, Clough J (2006) An unfavorable tide: global warming, coastal habitats and Sportfishing in Florida. National Wildlife Federation and Warren Pinnacle Consulting, Inc. Available via Accessed 15 March 2019
  21. Gonnea ME (2016) Appendix D: Tampa Bay carbon burial rates across mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems. In: Sheehan L, Crooks S. Tampa Bay blue carbon assessment: summary of findings & addendum. Technical Reports #07–16 and #07a-16 of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. 50 pp. Accessed 13 March 2019
  22. Greening HS, Janicki A, Sherwood ET, Pribble R, Johansson JOR (2014) Ecosystem responses to long-term nutrient management in an urban estuary: Tampa Bay, Florida, USA. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 151:A1–A16. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hamrick K, Gallant M (2017) Unlocking potential: state of the voluntary carbon markets 2017. Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, Washington, D.C. Accessed 13 March 2019
  24. Hamrick K, Goldstein A (2015) Ahead of the curve: state of the voluntary carbon markets 2015. Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, Washington, D.C. Accessed 13 March 2019
  25. Holmquist JR, Windham-Myers L, Bliss N, Crooks S, Morris JT, Megonigal JP, Troxler T, Weller D, Callaway J, Drexler J, Ferner MC, Gonneea ME, Kroeger KD, Schile-Beers L, Woo I, Buffington K, Breithaupt J, Boyd BM, Brown LN, Dix N, Hice L, Horton BP, MacDonald GM, Moyer RP, Reay W, Shaw T, Smith E, Smoak JM, Sommerfield C, Thorne K, Velinsky D, Watson E, Wilson-Grimes K, Woodrey M (2018) Accuracy and precision of tidal wetland soil carbon mapping in the conterminous United States. Scientific Reports 8:9478.
  26. Kirwan ML, Megonigal JP (2013) Tidal wetland stability in the face of human impacts and sea-level rise. Nature 504:53–60. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Klijn F, van Buuren M, van Rooij SAM (2002) Flood-risk management strategies for an uncertain future: living with Rhine River floods in the Netherlands? AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 33(3):141–147. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kollmuss A, Lazarus M, Lee C, LeFranc M, Polycarp C (2010) Handbook of carbon offset programs: trading systems, funds, protocols and standards. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. Krauss KW, McKee KL, Lovelock CE, Cahoon DR, Saintilan N, Reef R, Chen L (2014) How mangrove forests adjust to rising sea level. New Phytologist 202:19–34. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. LES (Lewis Environmental Services, Inc.) and CE (Coastal Environment, Inc.) (1996) Setting priorities for Tampa Bay habitat protection and restoration: restoring the balance. TBEP Technical Report #09-95. St. Petersburg, Florida. Accessed 13 March 2019
  31. Lewis RR III, Milbrandt EC, Brown B, Krauss KW, Rovai AS, Beever JW III, Flynn LL (2016) Stress in mangrove forests: early detection and preemptive rehabilitation are essential for future successful worldwide mangrove forest management. Marine Pollution Bulletin 109:764–771. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martinez CJ, Maleski JJ, Miller MF (2012) Trends in precipitation and temperature in Florida, USA. Journal of Hydrology 452–453:259–281. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mcleod E, Chmura GL, Bouillon S, Rodney S, Bjork M, Duarte CM, Lovelock CE, Schlesinger WG, Silliman BR (2011) A blueprint for blue carbon: toward an improved understanding of the role of vegetated coastal habitats in sequestering CO2. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9:552–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moyer RP, Radabaugh K, Powell C, Bociu I, Chappel A, Clark B, Crooks S, Emmett-Mattox S (2016) Appendix C: Quantifying carbon stocks for natural and restored mangroves, salt marshes, and salt barrens. In: Sheehan L, Crooks S (eds) Tampa Bay blue carbon assessment: summary of findings & addendum. Technical Reports #07–16 and #07a-16 of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. 39 pp. Accessed 13 March 2019
  35. Orson RA, Warren RS, Niering WA (1987) Development of a tidal marsh in a New England river valley. Estuaries 10(1):20–27. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pan Y, Birdsey RA, Fang J, Houghton R, Kauppi PE, Kurz WA, Phillips OL, Shvidenko A, Lewis SL, Canadell JG, Ciais P, Jackson RB, Pacala SW, McGuire AD, Piao S, Rautiainen A, Sitch S, Hayes D (2011) A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Science 333:988–993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Parris A, Bromirski P, Burkett V, Cayan D, Culver M, Hall J, Horton R, Knuuti K, Moss R, Obeysekera J, Sallenger A, Weiss J (2012) Global sea level rise scenarios for the US national climate assessment. NOAA Tech Memo OAR CPO-1. 37 pp. Available via Accessed 15 March 2019
  38. Pendleton L, Donato DC, Murray BC, Crooks S, Jenkins WA, Sifleet S, Craft C, Fourqurean JW, Kauffman JB, Marbà N, Megonigal P, Pidgeon E, Herr D, Gordon D, Baldera A (2012) Estimating global “blue carbon” emissions from conversion and degradation of vegetated coastal ecosystems. PLoS One 7:e43542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. PUB (Singapore’s National Water Agency) (2016) Kalang River at Bish-Ang Mo Kio Park Interactive Project Website: Accessed 22 Mar 2018
  40. Raabe EA, Roy LC, McIvor CC (2012) Tampa Bay coastal wetlands: nineteenth to twentieth century tidal marsh-to-mangrove conversion. Estuaries and Coasts 35(5):1145–1162. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Radabaugh KR, Powell CE, Bociu I, Clark BC, Moyer RP (2017a) Plant size metrics and organic carbon content of Florida salt marsh vegetation. Wetlands Ecology and Management 25:443–455. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Radabaugh KR, Moyer RP, Raulerson GE, Sherwood ET (2017b) Critical coastal habitat assessment training manual: a guide for long-term monitoring of coastal wetland habitats. Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. TBEP Technical Report #06–17. 30 pp. Accessed 13 March 2019.
  43. Radabaugh KR, Moyer RP, Chappel AR, Powell CE, Bociu I, Clark BC, Smoak JM (2018) Coastal blue carbon assessment of mangroves, salt marshes, and salt barrens in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA. Estuaries and Coasts 41(5):1496–1510. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. RAE (Restore America’s Estuaries) (2015) Living shorelines: from barriers to opportunities. Arlington, VA. . Accessed 22 Mar 2018
  45. Robison D (2010) Tampa Bay Estuary Program Habitat Master Plan Update. Technical Report #06–09 of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. . Accessed 1 Oct 2017.
  46. Sheehan L, Crooks S (2016) Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Assessment: Summary of Findings & Addendum. Technical Reports #07–16 and #07a-16 of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. . Accessed 1 Oct 2017
  47. Sherwood E, Greening H (2012) Critical coastal habitat vulnerability assessment for the Tampa Bay estuary: projected changes to habitats due to sea level rise and climate change, vol 33701. Available via Accessed 15 March 2019
  48. Sherwood ET, Greening HS (2014) Potential impacts and management implications of climate change on Tampa Bay estuary critical coastal habitats. Environmental Management 53(2):401–415.
  49. Sherwood ET, Greening HS, Cross L, Burke M (2016) A need for future integrated watershed management in Tampa Bay. In Burke M (ed) Proceedings, Tampa Bay Area Scientific Information Symposium, BASIS 6: 28–30 September 2015. St. Petersburg, FL. 337 pp. . Accessed 22 Mar 2018
  50. Sherwood ET, Greening HS, Johansson JOR, Kaufman K, Raulerson GE (2017) Tampa Bay (Florida, USA): documenting seagrass recovery & reviewing the benefits. Southeastern Geographer 57(3):294–319. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sherwood ET, Greening HS, Raulerson GE, Sheehan L, Tomasko D, Robison D, Crooks S, Moyer RP, Radabaugh KR, Simpson S, Emmett-Mattox S (2018) Chapter 26: Tampa Bay estuary case study. Identifying blue carbon incentives to further bolster future critical coastal habitat restoration and management efforts. In: Windham-Myers L, Crooks S, Troxler TG (eds) A blue carbon primer: the state of coastal wetland carbon science, practice and policy. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 367–381. 
  52. Simon JJ (1974) Tampa Bay estuarine system – a synopsis. Florida Scientist 37(4):217–244Google Scholar
  53. SLAMM (Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model) (2016) Sea level affecting marshes model, v. 6.7: technical documentation. Warren Pinnacle Consulting, Inc. Available via Accessed 1 May 2017
  54. Smith TJ, Tiling G, Leasure P (2007) Restoring coastal wetlands that were ditched for mosquito control: a preliminary assessment of hydro-leveling as a restoration technique. Journal of Coastal Conservation 11(1):67–74. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. SWFWMD (Southwest Florida Water Management District) (2011) SWFWMD 2011 Land Use Land Cover map. GIS, Maps & Survey: Shapefile Library. Accessed 1 Dec 2017
  56. SWFWMD (Southwest Florida Water Management District) (2016) SWFWMD Seagrass in 2016. GIS, Maps & Survey: Shapefile Library. Accessed 1 Dec 2017
  57. TBEP (Tampa Bay Estuary Program) (2017) Charting the course: the comprehensive conservation and management plan for Tampa Bay. TBEP technical report #10-17 of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. Accessed 1 Oct 2017
  58. Tomasko D (2016) Appendix E: Quantification of carbon sequestration rates for seagrass. In: Sheehan L, Crooks S (eds) Tampa Bay blue carbon assessment: summary of findings & addendum. Technical reports #07–16 and #07a-16 of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, FL. 13 pp. Accessed 13 March 2019
  59. Ullman R, Bilbao-Bastida V, Grimsditch G (2013) Including blue carbon in climate market mechanisms. Ocean and Coastal Management 83:15–18. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Weston NB (2014) Declining sediments and rising seas: an unfortunate convergence for tidal wetlands. Estuaries and Coasts 37:1–23. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yates KK, Greening H, Morrison G (2011) Integrating Science and Resource Management in Tampa Bay, Florida. United States Geological Survey Circular 1348 (2011). Accessed 1 Oct 2017

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Science AssociatesSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Tampa Bay Estuary ProgramSt. PetersburgUSA
  3. 3.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionFish and Wildlife Research InstituteSaint PetersburgUSA
  4. 4.Restore America’s EstuariesArlingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations