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

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid