Recently named Fulbright Scholar Lindsay Young will head to the University of the Philippines in Manila to develop a research program and teach a course on blue carbon, carbon stored in coastal marine ecosystems that can fight climate change and protect these areas from natural disasters. Young is an affiliate graduate faculty member from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’ (CTAHR) Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management and the executive director of Pacific Rim Conservation, a Hawaiʻi-based conservation nonprofit organization.
Young will expand on research on the effects of such areas by compiling information on blue carbon restoration projects to create a publicly accessible online geo spatial database, ultimately allowing others to review project outcomes and identify future sites that could benefit from restoration. Her graduate level course will complement the public impact research program, combining the fundamentals of coastal ecology while integrating the concepts of blue carbon restoration and climate mitigation strategies.
“I am humbled to receive this award, particularly since my career path has been a hybrid of academic and applied work,” Young said. “I look forward to not only developing a new program, but learning from my colleagues and students in the Philippines.”
Combating climate change
Blue carbon is stored in ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses, and can be sequestered in large quantities in both the plants and sediment below. In a publication from the United Nations Environmental Programme, research shows that 50% of all carbon in the ocean is stored in coastal habitats, despite taking up only 2% of ocean area, indicating that these ecosystems could be an underutilized, yet critical component, to battling climate change.
Young explained that coastal ecosystems have a disproportionately high impact on storing carbon to alleviate the impacts of climate change.
“Coastal marine ecosystems have the potential to store 3-5 times the amount of carbon per acre compared to tropical forests, while also providing significant protection against the impacts of natural disasters,” said Young. “This not only serves to potentially sequester carbon and thus reduce the impacts of climate change, but also mitigate the impacts of severe storms on areas that preserve and restore these habitats.”
The global impact of place-based research
Consisting of more than 7,700 islands with thriving mangrove and seagrass ecosystems, the Philippines is an ideal location to expand the knowledge of blue carbon initiatives on a global scale. Moreover, it will provide academics and managers in the country with the knowledge and tools needed to grow this important initiative.
“As the country with the fifth-longest coastline in the world, the Philippines has the potential to contribute significantly to carbon sequestration in the coastal environment,” said Young.
Despite being in different parts of the Pacific, Young’s research in the Philippines will still be beneficial to Hawaiʻi.
“The course and skills will be highly transferable to students at the University of Hawaiʻi—particularly given that the State of Hawaiʻi faces the similar environmental threats as the Philippines as a tropical archipelago,” Young added.