Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 6, pp 637–646 | Cite as

Coastal blue carbon: Concept, study method, and the application to ecological restoration

  • Jianwu Tang
  • Shufeng Ye
  • Xuechu Chen
  • Hualei Yang
  • Xiaohong Sun
  • Faming Wang
  • Quan Wen
  • Shaobo Chen
Progress Special Topic: Carbon cycling in the China Seas


Coastal blue carbon refers to the carbon taken from atmospheric CO2; fixed by advanced plants (including salt marsh, mangrove, and seagrass), phytoplankton, macroalgae, and marine calcifiers via the interaction of plants and microbes; and stored in nearshore sediments and soils; as well as the carbon transported from the coast to the ocean and ocean floor. The carbon sequestration capacity per unit area of coastal blue carbon is far greater than that of the terrestrial carbon pool. The mechanisms and controls of the carbon sink from salt marshes, mangroves, seagrasses, the aquaculture of shellfish and macroalgae, and the microbial carbon pump need to be further studied. The methods to quantify coastal blue carbon include carbon flux measurements, carbon pool measurements, manipulative experiments, and modeling. Restoring, conserving, and enhancing blue carbon will increase carbon sinks and produce carbon credits, which could be traded on the carbon market. The need to tackle climate change and implement China’s commitment to cut carbon emissions requires us to improve studies on coastal blue carbon science and policy. The knowledge learned from coastal blue carbon improves the conservation and restoration of salt marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses; enhances the function of the microbial carbon pump; and promotes sustainable aquaculture, such as ocean ranching.


Coastal Blue carbon Ecological restoration Salt marsh Mangrove Seagrass Microbial carbon pump Aquaculture carbon sink 


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We thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments to improve this paper. Writing of this paper is motivated by the “International forum on Coastal Blue Carbon” held on August 25–27, 2017 in Wenzhou, and “Blue Carbon International Forum” held on November 4, 2017 in Xiamen, where Jianwu Tang made presentations, and benefited from presentations and discussion in these two meetings. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China Overseas and Hong Kong-Macao Scholars Collaborative Research Fund (Grant No. 31728003) and the Shanghai University Distinguished Professor (Oriental Scholars) Program (Grant No. JZ2016006).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jianwu Tang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shufeng Ye
    • 3
  • Xuechu Chen
    • 2
  • Hualei Yang
    • 2
  • Xiaohong Sun
    • 4
  • Faming Wang
    • 1
  • Quan Wen
    • 5
  • Shaobo Chen
    • 6
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.College of Ecology and Environmental ScienceEast China Normal University; State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research; Shanghai Key Lab for Urban Ecological Processes and Eco-RestorationShanghaiChina
  3. 3.East China Sea Branch of State Oceanic AdministrationShanghaiChina
  4. 4.Marine CollegeShandong University (Weihai)WeihaiChina
  5. 5.Environmental Monitoring CenterState Oceanic AdministrationDalianChina
  6. 6.Zhejiang Mariculture Research InstituteWenzhouChina

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