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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Creating Added Value for Korea’s tidal flats: Using Blue Carbon as an Incentive for Coastal Conservation.


Korean tidal flats are one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, but their value has not been properly recognized. Thus, since the late 1970s, about 40% of Korea’s tidal flats have been converted through land reclamation. Some converted tidal flats have led to negative consequences, such as deteriorating water quality, diminished livelihoods of fishing communities, and inefficient use of national budgets. These are types of market failure.

Knowing the potential market value of ecosystem services may correct these market failures. Recently, as the importance of blue carbon has increased, it is expected that coastal ecosystems that store carbon can better receive their full social value, including possible access to carbon markets. This report presents a methodology for estimating the economic value of tidal flats as a coastal carbon repository and its application to tidal flat conservation policies. Korea’s tidal flats store carbon that accounts for 8% of Korea’s annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. To estimate the net benefit of tidal flat conservation, a cost-benefit analysis that included carbon dioxide reduction values was conducted for Ganghwa tidal flat. With a 25-year time horizon, the break-even point between benefit and cost occurs when the carbon price is $ 4 – 6/tCO 2 e. Given the average carbon market price in 2018 in Korea is $20.62/tCO 2 e, the ‘blue carbon’ valuation is high enough to incentivize coastal wetlands conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. Based on this blue carbon ‘viability,’ this paper examines some related issues and legislative improvements, as well as future considerations to increase participation by the private sector.

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