Blue forests are particularly valuable through the provision of multiple ecosystem services, with carbon capture and sequestration being recently highlighted, a concept also termed ‘blue carbon’. Vegetated coastal ecosystems, including tidal marshes, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows, are estimated to bury nearly 70% of the carbon sequestered in the oceans, although they occupy less than 0.5% of the world’s ocean surface area. The contribution from kelp forests is largely unknown and studies aim to quantify their carbon sequestration capacity.
Blue forests provide many other important services beyond the carbon sequestration. Blue forests are particularly important for coastal and island communities by protecting them against coastal erosion, storms and flooding. They provide food from fisheries, as well as a habitat for juvenile fish and shrimps to thrive in. They improve coastal water quality by trapping sediments and nutrients. They can provide local revenue from tourism, as well as materials for building or ingredients for medicines.
In temperate and boreal regions, such as Norway, the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of kelp forests and seagrass meadows can contribute to climate change mitigation efforts. The high productivity and biodiversity of kelp forests and seagrass meadows make them important providers of various ecosystem services, of which some are similar to those for tropical blue forests. For example, kelp forests act as important food and breeding areas for economically important coastal fish, crabs and lobsters.