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Wetlands provide a variety of ecosystem services, including capturing and storing carbon.

Blue Carbon

Coastal wetlands provide a variety of ecological services, including erosion control, flood protection, water filtration, and wildlife habitat. Increasingly, the value of wetlands to store and sequester carbon is becoming better understood. Wetlands provide an important role as a carbon sink, trapping some of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon absorbed and stored by ocean and coastal ecosystems is known as "blue carbon".

"Research suggests that coastal wetlands capture and store carbon at rates three to five times greater than tropical forests, which makes them efficient and essential carbon sinks."

- Murray et al., 2011, in the Blue Carbon Fact Sheet

Download the Blue Carbon Fact Sheet

Carbon in the System

How Do Trees Gain Mass?

To understand how wetland plants can capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, begin with a review of the carbon cycle and the process of photosynthesis.

The Carbon Cycle

Blue Carbon

Carbon stored in terrestrial plants is commonly referred to as "green carbon" since plants are typically green. The term "blue carbon" refers to the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, since the ocean is often connected with the color blue. Below are some resources that help explain the term Blue Carbon, and why researchers are focusing on carbon storage in coastal wetlands.

The Bringing Wetlands to Market curriculum from Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve provides resources for high school educators teaching about blue carbon and coastal wetlands.

Wonderful Wetlands

Wetland Types

From Oregon Explorer: "Wetlands are uniquely productive and valuable ecosystems with permanent or seasonal standing water. Salt marshes, pitcher-plant bogs, mountain fens, and desert saltgrass flats are just a few of the wetland types in Oregon."

  • Explore Oregon Explorer map to find out your watershed address, and click on Highlights to find out the percent land area is wetlands for a given watershed area.

Wetland Ecological Services

Field Experiences

Carbon Walk

Coring for Carbon

Students collect qualitative and quantitative data to assess how much carbon is stored in local ecosystems.



  • Oregon Coast educators can borrow soil core samplers and other field supplies no cost for up to two weeks from any of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub resource trailers.
  • South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve educators have additional large-scale coring equipment that they can demonstrate in the field.
  • Ideas to access equipment for drying and burning soil samples: Dry samples on a windowsill or in a convection oven. Burn samples in a ceramics kiln. Partner with a research institution who can dry or burn samples for you.

WetlandS Stewardship