The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration and the Port of San Diego have agreed to work together on studying the ability of eelgrass to capture and sequester carbon dioxide from the air.
The collaboration is part of Maritime Administration’s META program, which aims to research and develop practices and processes that can promote “maritime industrial environmental sustainability”.
And while it is well known that eelgrass naturally absorbs CO2 in order to produce oxygen, just as all other plants do, but this one is particularly interesting due to its inability to release that CO2 back into the atmosphere. As the eelgrass plants are found in saltwater, the carbon they capture is stored within them or in the soil around them for millennia.
Furthermore, even despite the relatively small area covered by eelgrass, its carbon storage capacity is between 30 and 50 times greater than that of forests on land.
Hence, the future one-year study will aim to determine exactly how much CO2 can be stored in San Diego Bay and how much more CO2 the eelgrass in the bay can continue to absorb in the years ahead.
The results of the study will help provide a better understanding of the carbon capture properties of eelgrass and may encourage the restoration and enhancement of eelgrass populations as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Aside from being part of Maritime Administration’s META program, this study is also a component of the Port of San Diego’s own holistic approach to mitigating CO2 emissions and climate planning. And it is also a part of the port’s efforts to protect the region’s resources that the tidelands provide.
San Diego Bay is home to nearly a fifth of the state’s eelgrass and roughly 50% of the eelgrass habitats of Southern California.