Carbon Offset Project
To achieve the goal of carbon neutrality for the annual meeting, the SETAC North America Board of Directors has long supported the concept of offsetting carbon burdens associated with staging such a large meeting where members travel from all over North America and beyond. Starting in 2012 and as an alternative to purchasing carbon credits from external groups, which limits our ability to verify how the funds are used, the Board opted for a different approach where SETAC members could more integrally participate. These projects are developed and managed by SETAC members within their Regional Chapters and focus on providing visible, productive enhancements to the environment. Carbon offsets are no longer simply sterile payments to unseen activities, they are reflective of the values and voluntary efforts of SETAC and the Regional Chapters.
This year the Board has selected and supports the Bay Shoreline Restoration and Pilot Carbon Offset Project. Using innovative new restorative technologies called Bay Saver Bags®, over 100 linear feet of the Chesapeake Bay shoreline will be restored. This project not only offsets a portion of the carbon footprint created by the SETAC North America Annual Meeting, it provides real-world insights that could be used to protect all estuarine systems within SETAC North America, including the bays of San Francisco, Galveston, Hudson, Delaware and throughout the expansive East, West and Gulf coasts.
SETAC North America strongly supports carbon offset programs and encourages all members to actively participate. More information on this year’s project is detailed below. If you would like to contribute to this carbon offset, you can do so during the registration process, or you can make a direct donation on the SETAC website.
Bay Shoreline Restoration and Pilot Carbon Offset Project
Matrix New World Engineering, Inc. (Matrix) in collaboration with the Chesapeake-Potomac Regional Chapter of SETAC (CPRC), the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC) and the University of Maryland (UMD) will restore 102 linear feet or more of Chesapeake Bay shoreline at the CBEC (formerly known as Horsehead Wetlands Center) in Grasonville, Queen Anne's County, Md., to offset a portion of the carbon footprint created by the 2013 SETAC North America annual meeting. The project involves:
- Restoration of a degraded, eroding shoreline
- Quantification of the amount of carbon sequestered from the project
The project will engage regional chapter members, students and the local community, while focusing on environmental education and sustainability. It will also contribute to the local economy by purchasing plants and supplies from local vendors. The restoration and carbon sequestration objectives of this proposal will be accomplished by conducting a small-scale bay shoreline restoration project using Bay Saver Bags® produced by Restore the Earth Foundation (REF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Over the past three centuries, the Chesapeake Bay has experienced severe and rapid wetland and shoreline loss due to a combination of rising sea levels and anthropogenic activities in the Bay. The restoration and stabilization of the eroding bay shoreline will reestablish vegetation across the project's pilot study area, thereby reducing the erosion, promoting sediment accretion, restoring valuable wildlife habitat, and sequestering carbon to zero in an area that is devoid of vegetation. The bay shoreline will be stabilized by installing a double row of Bay Saver Bags that will be planted with two seedlings (per bag) of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), a native marsh grass. To quantify the amount of blue carbon sequestered in herbaceous vegetation at the project site, the team will use and test the method described in the peer-reviewed paper, Salt Marsh Carbon Pool Distribution in a Mid-Atlantic Lagoon, USA: Sea-Level Rise Implications, authored by Elsey-Quirk et al. for a coastal marsh site in the Mid-Atlantic region. An accurate estimation of credit potential will be provided following the implementation of the methodology and first year of restoration monitoring.
The success of past efforts to restore the project study area by simply planting plugs of native vegetation along the shoreline have had limited success due to the somewhat high-wave energy from storms washing away the plants and shoreline. The innovative Bay Saver Bags technology has been selected to counteract the somewhat higher-wave energy. It is expected that this shoreline stabilization technique will experience a higher rate of sediment accretion and the more rapid establishment of a dense stand of S. alterniflora, thus requiring minimal maintenance during grow-in, thereby saving on the cost of maintenance. Bay Saver Bags containing native marsh grasses have been used by REF and Matrix with great success to restore shorelines in other high-energy applications along Louisiana’s gulf coast, on the Mississippi Delta and along the shoreline in Florida, where simple plug plantings have been washed away. Hence, this technology should prove to be beneficial in a somewhat high-energy application in the Chesapeake Bay environment, which should lead to greater sediment accretion and biomass creation at the project pilot site, thereby maximizing carbon credit potential and demonstrating a new tool for use in the Chesapeake Bay.
Net Capture of Carbon
There are two main carbon pools that factor into the carbon offset potential of coastal wetland and shoreline sites:
- Carbon stored in living biomass
- Carbon sequestered annually into sediments from undecomposed biomass
Most carbon offset methodologies consider only the first pool. Carbon from both of those pools would ordinarily be released due to coastal erosion if no action is taken, or a business-as-usual approach is taken. By preventing the further release of greenhouse gases that would be incurred under the business-as-usual approach, the avoided loss is credited into the total offset potential of a restoration site. The proposed project strives to elucidate the potential of blue carbon as a viable eco offset by augmenting the current body of scientific knowledge and applying the novel Bay-Saver Bag methodology for use in the marsh habitats. Blue carbon is defined as the carbon stored and sequestered in coastal ecosystems by tidal marshes, sea grasses and mangroves, and in the oceans by living organisms. The emerging field of blue carbon offsets aims to restore or prevent the loss of tidal wetlands and salt marshes, by monetizing the service value of coastal areas as carbon sinks. In contrast to other carbon offsets such as reforestation and greenhouse gas capture, blue carbon projects heavily exploit the carbon that is sequestered via burial in sediment, as well as in living plant matter. Early research indicates that blue carbon has great potential to provide robust carbon offsets while also providing the ancillary benefits of preserving existing wetlands and shorelines that would otherwise be lost to erosion or development without action. Therefore, utilizing the Bay-Saver Bags technique for reestablishing vegetation along a shoreline that is currently sand will prevent additional erosion at the site, ensuring greater sediment accretion and biomass generation, thereby maximizing carbon credit creation. The Gulf Saver Bags® that were used to great success in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida use the same EKO Bags® technology as the Bay Saver Bags.