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31 MAY 2019 (FRI) 11:00-12:00

The implications for climate change mitigation and adaptation through the quantification and protection of Scotland’s Blue Carbon resource

Map Library, Room 10.10, 10/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong

Professor William Austin Professor of Geography & Sustainable Development, School of Geography and Sustainable Development , University of St Andrews

About the Speaker:

William has recently completed a second term as Head of the School of Geography and Sustainable Development. He graduated with a B.Sc. (hons.) degree in Geology (with some Geography) from University College London in 1986. He also holds an M.Sc. degree (awarded 1988) in Micropalaeontology from the University of Wales, and a Ph.D. from the School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales. He has held research fellowships from the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the UK Natural Environment Research Council. William was appointed as a Lecturer in the Department of Geography, University of Durham, before moving to St Andrews in 1999 as Reader; he was appointed Professor in 2015. He also holds a honorary chair appointment at the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences, where he is Professor of Marine Geology and serves as a founding member of the UK Natural Environment Research Council Peer Review College.

William’s research focus is directed primarily at reconstructing past climate change from marine records, with a particular recent focus on Blue Carbon resources – linking the potential of coastal ecosystems and their sediments to store vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change as Greenhouse Gas emissions.


The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels argues that unconventional interventions will be needed to avoid dangerous climate change. In this paper I will explore the potential of Scotland’s Blue Carbon resource to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Using the examples of shelf and coastal habitats, I will outline the evidence that points to very large stores of organic (and inorganic) carbon in these shelf and coastal sediments. There is high confidence that the ocean’s net uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere plays a major role in mitigating global climate change; I will provide new, first-order estimates of carbon in Scotland’s shelf and coastal seas as evidence of their significant contribution to North West European carbon sinks. Marine sediments act as long-term stores of carbon and I will review the knowledge of the distribution, source, rate of burial and vulnerability of this most non-iconic of habitats – making the case that Scotland, through its network of Marine Protected Areas, is poised to take a global lead in protecting its Blue Carbon resource.


Places are limited & prior registration is encouraged.



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