Blue carbon futures

Blue carbon is carbon stored in coast and marine ecosystems. In Adelaide, this includes saltmarshes, mangroves, seagrasses, tidal flats and supratidal forests (forests above the high tide line). These can capture and store large amounts of carbon in plants and sediment.

Blue Carbon Futures Grants Program

Funding to support the implementation of the Blue Carbon Strategy for South Australia 2020-2025 is available through our Blue Carbon Futures Grants Program. The restoration of environments which can sequester blue carbon is a key focus of this program. In 2023/24, funding of up to $300,000 was available. For information about the program, download our Application Guidelines.

Applications have now closed, with recipients expected to be announced in March 2024.

Program background

Blue carbon is carbon stored in coast and marine ecosystems. In Adelaide, this includes saltmarshes, mangroves, seagrasses, tidal flats and supratidal forests (forests above the high tide line). These can capture and store large amounts of carbon in plants and sediment.

Over the last decade, works have been undertaken to conserve and restore coastal habitats like these.

This has involved working with our partners to investigate carbon values of certain habitats and create demonstration projects, like the Dry Creek Salt Field tidal restoration project, which shows how improving an environment can help it capture more carbon.

The Green Adelaide Blue Carbon Futures Fund facilitates these collaborations and partnerships, helping implement the Blue Carbon Strategy for South Australia 2020-25 along our coast.

You may be familiar with offsetting carbon. Historically the focus on these schemes has been tree planting and agricultural projects. What we’re hoping is that eventually, you might be able to opt to restore coastal environments, which may capture carbon a lot faster than forests on land!

So far, there’s a gap in what’s needed to make buying and selling blue carbon possible, so our funding aimed at helping assess what’s possible and improving knowledge about sites on the Adelaide coast, to prepare for a time when blue carbon can be traded.


Round 1
Blue Carbon opportunities through tidal restoration and avoided disturbanceFlinders University (lead), University of Adelaide, Airborne Research Australia, and the Department for Environment and WaterTo understand what tidal flows are, think of the natural rise and fall of the ocean – and then imagine something being put in the way of the waves, stopping them from going where they normally would. Reintroducing tidal flows to coastal areas can help restore them and also increase their ability to store carbon. This project will figure out how much carbon can be captured by the Dry Creek Salt Fields when tidal flows are reconnected. This information will be used to give a dollar value to tidal
Carbon storage of coastal sedgeland in relation to use of fire for habitat enhancementFlinders University (lead), University of Adelaide, EntoSearch, Green Adelaide

This project will find out how much carbon stored is stored in Gahnia sedgeland, a type of nationally threatened coastal saltmarsh. Restoring this habitat and, in particular, thatching grass (Gahnia filum), has been an important part of making the reintroduction of the regionally extinct yellowish sedge skipper butterfly possible. Fire and slashing also seem to be important in maintaining the habitat for the butterfly and so, this project will also explore carbon stored in various stages of burnt and unburnt sedgelands.

Advancing the mapping of Green Adelaide’s blue carbonUniversity of Adelaide (lead), Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility, University of Adelaide, Flinders UniversityThis project will improve blue carbon maps in the Green Adelaide region by sampling carbon stocks (how much is stored) at a range of sites. This will add to data collected about coastal ecosystems across South Australia. Drones will be used to track vegetation changes at Mutton Cove, a blue carbon site, which was re-connected to tidal flows in 2016.
Potential for Zostera seagrass recovery and rehabilitation to enhance blue carbon in SAUniversity of Adelaide (lead), PIRSA/SARDI Aquatic SciencesThis project will assess whether it is feasible to use Zostera, a nearshore seagrass commonly known as eelgrass, to enhance blue carbon storage off the Adelaide coast. Nearshore seagrasses are important because they help hold sand together, reducing waves and currents, as well as providing a home and food for marine animals. The project will include assessing the right time to collect seagrass seeds and trial planting some of them near Torrens Island. If successful, this will open up opportunities for citizen science seagrass rehabilitation – imaging being part of that planting day!
Round 2
Green Adelaide’s blue carbon C-scapeUniversity of AdelaideThis project will investigate the coastal landscape of metropolitan Adelaide. Using an archive of sediment samples from seagrass, mangrove, saltmarsh and supratidal melalueuca, the project will help establish blue carbon connectivity across SA’s coastal seascapes.
Optimising reef restorations to enhance blue carbon habitatsUniversity of AdelaideThis project will demonstrate opportunities for blue carbon collection through the restoration of seagrass meadows and oyster reefs. This will include investigating whether constructed reeds create conditions that stabilise sediment and enhance restoration and recovery of seagrass meadows.
Blue Carbon opportunities through tidal restoration and avoided disturbanceFlinders University, University of Adelaide, Airborne Research Australia,For this project, Flinders University will partner on research with Airborne Research Australia and University of Adelaide, to measure the effects from a recent disturbance event on Blue Carbon habitats, by quantifying the carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions in areas of dieback and potentially further impacted areas of saltmarsh and mangrove.
Blue Carbon: Opportunities, examples and advancesAirborne Research SA Ltd, University of Adelaide, Flinders UniversityFor this project, Airborne Research Australia will partner on research with Flinders University and University of Adelaide to support the development of Blue Carbon projects through guidance in applying the new method, increasing the knowledge on carbon storage from a tidal trial case study, and advancing the understanding of regional carbon values and potential impacts on blue carbon habitats.
Round 3
Blue Carbon: co-benefit and assessment advancesAquatic Biosecurity Pty Ltd, Flinders UniversityThis research project will look at advancing 2 significant areas of blue carbon, quantifying the benefits of tidal restoration and improved assessment of blue carbon ecosystems. Both of these are relevant for future adoptions of the ‘System of Environmental Economic Accounting’ for blue carbon projects.
Blue Carbon: Navigating the legal regime for blue carbon projects in South AustraliaUniversity of AdelaideThis project will undertake the first detailed analysis of new Commonwealth and South Australian laws around tidal restoration projects under the Emissions Reduction Fund Blue Carbon method, including mapping existing policy and laws and conducting workshops with key stakeholders.
Blue Carbon: Future for man-made Port Gawler enclosed saltwater lakesAirborne Research SA LtdThis project will gather characterising data from Middle Beach and Port Gawler lakes to determine potential areas to rehabilitate with seagrass to benefit fisheries, saltmarshes and shore bird habitat.