Marine vegetated habitats (seagrasses, salt-marshes, macroalgae and mangroves) occupy 0.2% of the ocean surface, but contribute 50% of carbon burial in marine sediments. Their canopies dissipate wave energy and high burial rates raise the seafloor, buffering the impacts of rising sea level and wave action that are associated with climate change. The loss of a third of the global cover of these ecosystems involves a loss of CO 2 sinks and the emission of 1 Pg CO 2 annually. The conservation, restoration and use of vegetated coastal habitats in eco-engineering solutions for coastal protection provide a promising strategy, delivering significant capacity for climate change mitigation and adaption. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.