News / Asia

Coastal Trees Help Fight Global Warming

Mangroves found to store more planet-warming carbon dioxide than previously thought

A tall mangrove forest on the island of Borneo. Mangroves often reside on thick sediment layers rich in organic matter, resulting in carbon storage exceeding most tropical forests.
A tall mangrove forest on the island of Borneo. Mangroves often reside on thick sediment layers rich in organic matter, resulting in carbon storage exceeding most tropical forests.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

A new study says the world's tropical coastal forests store more planet-warming carbon dioxide than almost any other ecosystem.

But rapid loss of these forests - known as mangroves - is releasing substantial and previously unrecognized quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Mangroves provide rich breeding grounds for fish, and they help buffer coastal areas from storm surges. But their role in trapping climate-warming carbon dioxide has not been studied much.

A new study in the journal "Nature Geoscience" provides a first look.

More carbon per hectare than tropical rainforests

Daniel Donato with the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and his colleagues surveyed tree mass, dead wood, and soil carbon in 25 mangrove ecosystems around the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans.

A mangrove landscape on the Ganges River Delta, Bangladesh. Mangroves are being rapidly deforested globally.
A mangrove landscape on the Ganges River Delta, Bangladesh. Mangroves are being rapidly deforested globally.

Donato says study shows, "They are right up there with the most carbon-rich forests in the world."

Donato's results showed mangroves store about three to four times more carbon per hectare as temperate forests or even tropical rainforests. But Donato says most of it is hidden.

"Carbon in mangroves is really about the below-ground story," he says. "Most of the carbon stored in that ecosystem is in the soil and the tree roots."

Mangroves stored about five times as much carbon in deep soils compared to temperate or tropical forests.

Rapid loss

But the researchers note that a third to a half of the world's mangroves have been cut down in the last half-century for timber, coastal development and aquaculture.

The researchers estimate that the amount of greenhouse gases released each year from mangrove deforestation may be equivalent to as much as 10 percent of the global toll from deforestation.That's despite the fact that mangroves make up less than 1 percent of the tropical forest area.

Donato says the research should get the attention of policymakers."It shows mangroves are probably pretty good candidates for things like carbon-market trading to encourage sustainable forest management."

Dollar value

Carbon markets, where industries buy the right to emit carbon dioxide in exchange for protecting forests or other offsets, could be a powerful force for conservation, environmentalists say.

Many developing countries, especially in Asia, are clearing mangroves for fish and shrimp aquaculture because it can be profitable. The value of the mangrove often is not immediately obvious to policymakers, says Emily Pidgeon, director the marine climate change program at the environmental group Conservation International.

"By suddenly having an actual mechanism to value these systems in dollars, it gives you a potentially very large new mechanism for countering the other financial and economic arguments," she says.

Consumer standards

Other groups are approaching the economics of mangrove conservation from the buyer's side. They are encouraging Western supermarkets and other large consumers to only buy farmed seafood that meets certain standards, including limited impact on mangrove loss.

Pidgeon says it works well in some places. But other developing countries are not equipped to meet or enforce the standards.

"The government structures are not very strong," she says, "and the expertise and capacity to apply some of these approaches is often very challenging."

Mosaic of services

One of the most important ways to help local communities value the mangroves, Pidgeon says, is to see them as part of a mosaic that provides a whole range of services, including nurturing the fisheries that many developing-world coastal fishing communities depend on for their livelihoods.

"Although you may catch your fish in one particular piece of the mosaic, the fish are only there to catch because of the time they spend in all the other pieces," she adds.

For many coastal communities, carbon storage is just the latest service they may see mangroves providing.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid