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.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora