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

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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs