Carbon stored in mangroves and wetlands (known as blue carbon) is playing an increasingly prominent role in discussions about the world’s emissions budget. Yet many questions remain about how coastal environments store and release CO2 and behave under climate change. A new study published in Nature Communications looks at the future of blue carbon, stressing the need for a better understanding of how coastal ecosystems can contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation. Blue carbon (BC) refers to organic carbon that mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrass, seaweed and other coastal and marine ecosystems capture and store. Scientists and the international community are exploring its potential to tackle climate change. The merits of these ecosystems go beyond carbon sequestration, protecting coastlines and securing livelihoods for local communities. But for BC to have a say in shaping climate action, blue carbon science needs a more solid footing, the study points out.