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A new map shows how much carbon dioxide is stored in Oregon’s Coos Bay estuary

The Coos Bay estuary is Oregon’s largest within state lines.
Oregon ShoreZone
The Coos Bay estuary is Oregon’s largest within state lines.

Tidal wetlands trap a lot of carbon dioxide. A recent survey maps those marine carbon sinks, also called “blue carbon” ecosystems, on the Southern Oregon coast.

A newly released map by Pew Charitable Trusts and Oregon researchers show how much carbon dioxide is potentially stored in the soil and vegetation of the Coos Bay estuary — Oregon’s largest within state lines.

The project’s creators think the map can be an important tool for combating climate change.

“Essentially it was created to help people understand where carbon is on the landscape in these habitats and where to restore if they're interested in doing so,” said Elizabeth Ruther, U.S. conservation officer at Pew.

Oregon passed legislation last year to help protect coastal ecosystems, which are also important for wildlife habitat and flood prevention.

“Oregon is leading the way for sure. They're one of the first states in the nation that has incorporated coastal wetlands into their state greenhouse gas inventory,” said Ruther.

She said that coastal habitats can store an amount of CO2 on par with old-growth forests, statewide absorbing the equivalent of around 11,000 cars each year.

Oregon State University research foundthat the state has lost about 58% of its historical tidal wetlands. Much of that loss is from development.

Researchers plan to eventually expand the blue carbon map statewide.

Justin Higginbottom is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. He's worked in print and radio journalism in Utah as well as abroad with stints in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He spent a year reporting on the Myanmar civil war and has contributed to NPR, CNBC and Deutsche Welle (Germany’s public media organization).