Sequestration of macroalgal carbon: The elephant in the Blue Carbon room

Dorte Krause-Jensen, Paul Lavery, Oscar Serrano, Núria Marba, Pere Masque, Carlos M. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

206 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited. Macroalgae form the most extensive and productive benthic marine vegetated habitats globally but their inclusion in Blue Carbon (BC) strategies remains controversial. We review the arguments offered to reject or include macroalgae in the BC framework, and identify the challenges that have precluded macroalgae from being incorporated so far. Evidence that macroalgae support significant carbon burial is compelling. The carbon they supply to sediment stocks in angiosperm BC habitats is already included in current assessments, so that macroalgae are de facto recognized as important donors of BC. The key challenges are (i) documenting macroalgal carbon sequestered beyond BC habitat, (ii) tracing it back to source habitats, and (iii) showing that management actions at the habitat lead to increased sequestration at the sink site. These challenges apply equally to carbon exported from BC coastal habitats. Because of the large carbon sink they support, incorporation of macroalgae into BC accounting and actions is an imperative. This requires a paradigm shift in accounting procedures as well as developing methods to enable the capacity to trace carbon from donor to sink habitats in the ocean.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20180236
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Blue carbon
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Connectivity
  • Export
  • Macroalgae
  • Seaweed


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