Risk of carbon stocks in the sea: – This saves Norway

Risk of carbon stocks in the sea: – This saves Norway

For the first time, researchers have calculated how much carbon, kelp forests and the like are being absorbed and stored along Norway’s coastal region: about 137 million tons of carbon.

– I’m amazed at how much, say, a very small part of our coastal region has to store carbon. If we had triggered this, Norway would have seen a huge jump in carbon emissions, he says On Øystein Hjermannresearch leader at NIVA, the Norwegian Institute for Water Research.

Tremendous development: The image drawn by NIVA shows how large parts of the coastal region of Farsund were developed from 2002 to 2014. – Everyone thinks that this small excavation doesn’t mean much, but we didn’t control the development, says Øystein Hjermann. Aerial photos and graphics: The Mapping Authority/NIVA
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Key interventions: Farsand is pictured here after developments carried out from 2002 to 2014. Construction in the beach area is destroying important carbon stocks in the sea.  Image: Mapping Authority/NIVA

Key interventions: Farsand is pictured here after developments carried out from 2002 to 2014. Construction in the beach area is destroying important carbon stocks in the sea. Image: Mapping Authority/NIVA
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more than air traffic emissions

Marine habitats absorb as much greenhouse gases as habitats on land, and they are absolutely essential to Norway’s climate calculations. 137 million tonnes of carbon (502 million CO2e) is stored in the top 25 cm of the sea floor within Norway’s territorial waters.

– 137 million tons of carbon roughly corresponds to all the trees in Viken, Vestfold and Telemark combined. 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide is absorbed annually, nearly 2.5 times more than what is emitted by Norwegian air traffic, says Hejerman and ticks the time:

– That is why it is important to leave the sea alone, and to restore the eel-grass beds, which are being tested in the Oslo Fjord, says the research leader.

Occupied by the sea: Dag Øystein Hjermann is a marine biologist and head of research at NIVA and is amazed at how much carbon the coastal region of Norway has taken up.  Photo: private

Occupied by the sea: Dag Øystein Hjermann is a marine biologist and head of research at NIVA and is amazed at how much carbon the coastal region of Norway has taken up. Photo: private
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He adds that he believes more carbon is stored in the Norwegian regional area, which is a larger area.

– But we didn’t count on that, says the marine biologist.

Fight for percentages

The sea is huge and it is impossible to map it in the same way you would the land. So the researchers mapped the changes in two coastal regions, Farsund and Levanger, from 1990 until today.

The ocean absorbs more than it emits, making up about 4.5 percent of Norway’s total carbon dioxide emissions, and is permanently stored. That’s a lot, especially when we know that Norway is fighting to cut carbon emissions by every cent, says Gunhild Borgersen, a marine biologist at NIVA.

They mapped out filling coastal areas to build shopping malls, sports stadiums, stadium tents, docks, port development, and the like.

– Shallow water is the easiest to fill, and eelgrass is often found, a natural species that is not found in large areas, but it absorbs a lot of carbon annually. The sea floor is very important, Borgersen says, and has accumulated carbon over many thousands of years.

Norway is getting better at logging areas with eelgrass and kelp forests, which are again protected by a state manager, who today must accept all development.

– But the question remains whether we have a good enough overview of all the areas of eelgrass and reeds on the coast, says Borgersen.

- No time to wait

– No time to wait


– Do not judge

Hjermann of NIVA believes that municipalities, counties and decision-makers should be more aware of marine habitat types when it comes to development in the shore area.

– Every ton is important and every part of the fjord is important. Everyone thinks this little addition doesn’t mean much, but we haven’t controlled the general development in the coastal area of ​​Norway, says Hermann.

Healthy Eel Grass: This healthy plain of lush eel grass absorbs loads of carbon.  Photo: Erling Svensen

Healthy Eel Grass: This healthy plain of lush eel grass absorbs loads of carbon. Photo: Erling Svensen
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SLITER: A few eels cling to the seabed on a beach at Drøbak in the Oslo Fjord.  Photo: Frederick Meyer, WWF's World Wide Fund for Nature

SLITER: A few eels cling to the seabed on a beach at Drøbak in the Oslo Fjord. Photo: Frederick Meyer, WWF’s World Wide Fund for Nature
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The world’s nations have agreed to create their own climate accounts, in an effort to reduce the world’s emissions.

– The ocean is not included in climate accounting as it is on land, where you can calculate uptake from swamps, forests and other land areas – and how natural interventions affect greenhouse gas emissions, says Hjermann and continues:

– We have never had anything similar to the sea, while at the same time we know little about the vastness. The marine biologist says a step towards including marine ecosystems is to include the wet component in climate calculations.

know very little: NMBU’s chief engineer and microbiologist, Inga Leena Angell, is eager to find out why the Oslofjord is suffering. Angel believes bottom samples from the Oslo Fjord could provide many answers, but little research has been done. Video: Nina Hansen/Dagbladet
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threatening activities

Kelp forest is the type of vegetation along the Norwegian coast that stores the most carbon each year, followed by kelp belts and eel beds.

According to the researchers, bottom trawling, including shrimp trawling, is seen as the largest physical disturbance of the sea floor. Underwater pipelines and cables and coastal development also damage shallow, soft-bottomed areas, which in turn affects carbon stocks.

Dredging and dumping is another type of activity that can lead to sediment carbon emissions, according to Hegerman.

WWF: More must be protected

Caroline Andor, Secretary General of the World Wide Fund for Nature, points to the Nature Convention that was signed in Montreal last December.

– We must protect 30 percent of the world’s marine and terrestrial areas by 2030, and Norway must take its rightful share of the responsibility, says Andor.

Å - So pretty: a healthy, lush kelp forest outside in Lofoten.  Photo: Frederick Meyer, WWF's World Wide Fund for Nature

Å – So pretty: a healthy, lush kelp forest outside in Lofoten. Photo: Frederick Meyer, WWF’s World Wide Fund for Nature
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Lorvit Farwan: The lack of purification of nitrogen emissions in the Oslo Fjord means that filamentous algae

Lorvette Farwan: The lack of purification of nitrogen emissions in the Oslo Fjord means that filamentous algae “Larf” is growing at full speed at the expense of eels, seaweeds and kelp. When they die, they rot and the rotting process takes up so much oxygen that the Oslofjord drains from the air. Photo: Frederick Meyer/WWF
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She believes Norway must be careful not to be left behind when it comes to marine protection.

Unfortunately, we are too poor to consider comprehensively how we manage both our coastal and marine areas. The European Union has already got a comprehensive spatial planning of the oceans in 2021, she says and adds:

Kelp forests, eel beds, and kelp belts are important carbon stores, as well as home to a large number of wildlife. Caring for these types of nature, which are constantly under pressure from human activity, is central to solving the climate crisis and the nature crisis.

  • The Norwegian Environment Agency has asked NIVA to release reports on carbon storage in marine habitats – and mapping activities that disturb carbon stores in the sea.
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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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