Friday, February 26, 2010

Whaling Worsens Carbon Release

Looks like Blue Carbon now includes whales, what's next?

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Whaling worsens carbon release, scientists warn

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News, Portland

Blue Whale - Science Photo Library
Whales store carbon by the tonne. Image: Science Photo Library

A century of whaling may have released more than 100 million tonnes - or a large forest's worth - of carbon into the atmosphere, scientists say.

Whales store carbon within their huge bodies and when they are killed, much of this carbon can be released.

US scientists revealed their estimate of carbon released by whaling at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, US.

Dr Andrew Pershing from the University of Maine described whales as the "forests of the ocean".

Dr Pershing and his colleagues from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute calculated the annual carbon-storing capacity of whales as they grew.

"Whales, like any animal or plant on the planet, are made out of a lot of carbon," he said.

"And when you kill and remove a whale from the ocean, that's removing carbon from this storage system and possibly sending it into the atmosphere."

He pointed out that, particularly in the early days of whaling, the animals were a source of lamp oil, which was burned, releasing the carbon directly into the air.

"And this marine system is unique because when whales die [naturally], their bodies sink, so they take that carbon down to the bottom of the ocean.

"If they die where it's deep enough, it will be [stored] out of the atmosphere perhaps for hundreds of years."

Ocean trees

In their initial calculations, the team worked out that 100 years of whaling had released an amount of carbon equivalent to burning 130,000 sq km of temperate forests, or to driving 128,000 Humvees continuously for 100 years.

Dr Pershing stressed that this was still a relatively tiny amount when compared to the billions of tonnes produced by human activity every year.

When whales die [naturally], their bodies sink, so they take that carbon down to the bottom of the ocean.
Dr Andrew Pershing, University of Maine

But he said that whales played an important role in storing and transporting carbon in the marine ecosystem.

Simply leaving large groups of whales to grow, he said, could "sequester" the greenhouse gas, in amounts that were comparable to some of the reforestation schemes that earn and sell carbon credits.

He suggested that a similar system of carbon credits could be applied to whales in order to protect and rebuild their stocks.

"The idea would be to do a full accounting of how much carbon you could store in a fully populated stock of fish or whales, and allow countries to sell their fish quota as carbon credits," he explained.

"You could use those credits as an incentive to reduce the fishing pressure or to promote the conservation of some of these species."

Other scientists said that he had raised an exciting and interesting problem.

Professor Daniel Costa, a marine animal researcher from the University of California, Santa Cruz, told BBC News: "So many more groups are looking at the importance of these large animals in the carbon cycle.

"And it's one of those things that, when you look at it, you think: ' This is so obvious, why didn't we think of this before?'."

Is bigger better?

Dr Pershing pointed out that whales, with their huge size, were more efficient than smaller animals at storing carbon.

He used the analogy of a small dog compared to a large dog.

"My wife's 6lb (2.7kg) toy poodle eats one cup of food per day and my dog - a 60lb standard poodle - eats five cups of food per day," he said.

"That's only five times as much food but my dog weighs ten times as much."

He said that the marine carbon credit idea could be applied to other very large marine animals, including endangered bluefin tuna and white sharks.

Dr Pershing said: "These are huge and they are top predators, so unless they're fished they would be likely to take their biomass to the bottom of the ocean [when they die]."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

UNEP and Government of Indonesia Emphasize Role of Blue Carbon in Combating Climate Change

UNEP and Government of Indonesia Emphasize Role of Blue Carbon in Combating Climate Change

Indonesia's Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner launch the concept of Blue Carbon at the 11th Special Session of UNEP Governing Council in Nusa Dua, Bali

Nusa Dua Bali, Indonesia, February 25, 2010 - In a joint statement issued today at the XIth Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council, Indonesia's Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Dr. Fadel Muhammad and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner have emphasized the important role of marine and coastal ecosystems in the fight against climate change.

The concept of Blue Carbon, which emphasizes the ability of marine and coastal ecosystems to sequester carbon, was introduced by UNEP in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Education and Science Organization (UNESCO).

Blue Carbon emphasizes the key role of marine and coastal ecosystems, which are dominated by marine vegetation such as mangrove forests, seagrass, brackish marshes and salt marshes. Coastal and marine ecosystems are believed to be able to complement the role of forests (Green Carbon) in taking up carbon emissions through sequestration.

Mr. Steiner said: "We already know that marine and coastal ecosystems are multi-trillion dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, shipping and fisheries - now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change."

Mr. Steiner and Dr. Fadel jointly emphasized that the basis of their joint statement is the mandate of the Manado Ocean Declaration (MOD) declared last year, as well as efforts to control the adverse effects of climate change.

"We appeal to all countries to preserve these abilities of coastal and marine ecosystems as important variables in global climate change dynamic", said Dr. Fadel and Mr. Steiner.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Indonesia looks to seas as potential carbon sink

Govt looks to seas as potential carbon sink

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 02/18/2010 11:00 AM | Nationa

Research conducted by the Maritime Affairs and Fishery Ministry shows that Indonesia’s seas can absorb roughly 0.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide each year (300 million metric tons), far more than previous estimates of up to 40 million tons.

Officials, however, declined to comment on whether Indonesia would promote the ocean as alternative resource in efforts to mitigate human-induced climate change.

“We are still focusing on adaptation measures,” Marine and Fishery Research Agency chief Gellwynn Jusuf told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The country’s first-ever research of carbon in oceans will be officially launched at the global ministerial meeting in Bali on Feb. 25.

Environment ministers from 192 countries are slated to attend the four-day conference, organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Oceans will be one of the main issues discussed at the meeting, which will be opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Indonesia has 5.8 million square kilometers of seas.

Gellwynn said the research did not include the capability of sea grass, mangroves or coral reefs to absorb the carbon.

Data from the National Action Plan on climate change launched by President Yudhoyono in Bali in 2007 said the 61,000 square kilometers of coral reefs could absorb up to 73 million tons of the carbon dioxide, one of the main contributors to climate change.

The action plan says Indonesia’s 30.000 square kilometers of the sea grass could absorb up to 56 million tons of CO2, and 93,000 square kilometers of mangroves could absorb 75 million tons of carbon each year.

The government, however, had not used data from the action plan in international talks on the oceans’ role in mitigating climate change.

Gellwynn said Indonesia and the UNEP would sign a memorandum of understanding on the blue carbon concept to help Jakarta develop oceanic research in relation to climate change.

The Bali meeting is expected to issue the “ocean decision” that will mandate the UNEP to mainstream marine and coastal strategy into its program of work to help protect oceans from impacts of increasing global temperatures.

“If all ministers agree on the ocean declaration, the UNEP will promote the assessment of marine areas and ecosystems,” senior ministry official Hendra Yusran Sira said.

People’s Coalition for Justice in Fisheries (Kiara) secretary-general Riza Damanik said the government must also take into account the amount of carbon released by oceans.

“The claim is incorrect if the government only calculates the capability of oceans to absorb carbon. Scientific research shows that oceans absorb and release carbon at the same time,” he told the Post.

Most of the carbon absorbed by oceans is not the anthropogenic carbon that causes climate change, he said.

“It is carbon from photosynthesis,” he said.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Katoomba & Blue Carbon

Mangroves not only protect coasts and nurture young fish, but they could be one of the most potent tools in the battle to slow global warming. They're also the center of debate this afternoon in Palo Alto, California, where social entrepreneur Ben Metz is videoblogging from the Katoomba MARES Meeting.

See following link for videoblog of event:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deep sea creatures & material from ocean surface

Particles & matter = carbon from above?

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Research: Single-celled Creature Tackles The Challenge Of Homebuilding Beyond The Abyss News Service

February 11, 2010 17:47 EST

New research reveals how foraminifera build their homes in the extreme deep of the ocean. credit JAMSTEC

SOUTHAMPTO, UK -- Evidence from the Challenger Deep-– the deepest surveyed point in the world's oceans-– suggests that tiny single-celled creatures called foraminifera living at extreme depths of more than ten kilometres build their homes using material that sinks down from near the ocean surface.

The Challenger Deep is located in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. It lies in the hadal zone beyond the abyssal zone, and plunges down to a water depth of around 11 kilometres.

"The hadal zone extends from around six kilometres to the deepest seafloor. Although the deepest parts of the deepest trenches are pretty inhospitable environments, at least for some types of organism, certain kinds of foraminifera are common in the bottom sediments," said Professor Andrew Gooday of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) and member of a UK-Japanese team studying these organisms in samples collected in 2002 during a Japan-USA-Korea expedition to study life in the western depression of the Challenger Deep.

The researchers, whose findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Deep Sea Research, used the remotely operated vehicle KAIKO, operated by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), to take core samples from the soft sediment of the trench floor. Among many foraminiferans with an organic shell (or 'test'), they found four undescribed specimens with agglutinated tests.

"The Challenger Deep is an extreme environment for agglutinated foraminifera, which construct their tests from a wide range of particles cemented together by calcareous or organic matter," said Gooday. "At these great depths, particles made from biologically formed calcite and silica, as well as minerals such as quartz, should dissolve, leaving only clay grains available for test building."

The researchers were therefore surprised to discover that foraminiferan tests sampled from the Challenger Deep contained calcareous components, including the dissolved remnants of coccoliths, the calcium carbonate plates of tiny algae called coccolithophores, and planktonic foraminiferan test fragments.

The organic test surface of one species was densely pitted with imprints, which the researchers interpreted as representing mineral grains of various types, including quartz, which subsequently dissolved. Agglutinated particles, presumed to be clay minerals, survived only in one specimen.

"Our observations demonstrate that coccoliths, and probably also planktonic foraminiferan tests, reach the Challenger Deep intact," said Gooday. "These particles were probably transported to these extreme depths in rapidly sinking marine snow, the aggregated remains of phytoplankton that lived in the sunlit surface ocean, or in faecal pellets from zooplankton."

It seems likely, therefore, that at least some agglutinated foraminifera living at extreme hadal depths build their homes from material that sinks down from the ocean above, rather like manna from heaven.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Solomon Islands & Mangrove Carbon

Mangrove project workshop starts today
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 11:0

THE Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology is partnering with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources as well as the WorldFish Center to implement the Pacific Mangrove Initiative – Mangrove EcoSystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods.

The project’s pre-inception workshops are being held this week in Honiara, starting today and running for three days.

The workshops aim to develop the project design and the work program for the next four years.

This is a region wide project coordinated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature which focuses on the management of mangrove ecosystems in order to build resilience to climate change and improve the livelihoods of people in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

This project aims to increase awareness about why mangroves are so important and how they contribute to people’s livelihoods, while conserving biodiversity and responding to the threats posed by climate change.

Tia Masolo, Deputy Director of the Environment and Conservation Division of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology says that the importance of these trees is often underestimated.

“Mangroves provide the people of Solomon Islands with many benefits and the Mangrove EcoSystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods project aims to improve mangrove ecosystem management so that everyone can profit from them.”

This project will work towards implementing some of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology policies and programmes on conservation of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.

Mangroves and our islands

Mangroves are a very important resource for Solomon Islands because they provide homes and food for marine life, protect the coastline from storms and erosion and provide materials for local communities.

In the Solomon Islands mangroves are often cut down and cleared to make way for buildings or logging wharfs or used as a rubbish dump site because people do not appreciate their value.

In some places, population pressure is putting such a high demand on mangroves (for building materials and firewood) that there are very few mangroves left in these areas.

This project aims to increase awareness about why mangroves are so important and how they contribute to people’s livelihoods, while conserving biodiversity and responding to the threats posed by climate change.

Mangroves are trees that live on the coast, halfway between land and sea. Their roots grow in both salt water from the ocean and fresh water from the land.

Tia Masolo, Deputy Director of the Environment and Conservation Division of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology says that the importance of these trees is often underestimated.

“Mangroves might not look like much, but they are incredibly useful for many aspects of coastal life,” said Mr Masolo.

“By simply just protecting our mangrove forests or replanting them, we can provide basic needs for people – like more fish in the sea, protected coastlines, renewable firewood supply and much more”.

Mangroves provide a home for birdlife and many marine creatures. Their decaying leaves provide food for crabs, prawns and fish.

Some baby marine creatures live in mangrove forests, protected by the trees until they are big enough to go into deeper water, while other animals like mud crabs and prawns live there permanently.

Mangroves also act as a feeding ground for bigger fish.

Mr Masolo says that mangroves are not just important for animals, but provide many resources and benefits to communities.

“They can be a source of firewood and building material as long as the amount taken from the forests can be replaced by natural growth,” he said.

“Coastal communities eat mangrove fruit and shellfish.

“Many species of fish that are commercially important breed in mangroves and mangroves help to sustain small scale fishing that communities rely on for food.

“In protecting mangroves we are also protecting our future.”

Pacific Islanders are extremely vulnerable to climate change and Mr Masolo says that mangroves also can be effective in helping communities combat the impacts of climate change.

“Climate change may result in more extreme weather events and mangroves protect coastal communities from the impacts of cyclones, storms and big waves.

“Mangroves can be used as a form of adaptation or as a way in which communities can make changes that help them cope with climate change impacts such as erosion caused by sea level rise and bad weather,” he said.

Mangroves provide a network of roots that hold the earth together, preventing coastal erosion.

Above the ground, the raised roots act as a trap for bits of sand and coral, building up the coastline. In this way, mangroves can extend the shoreline.

Mangroves also help to reduce global warming because they soak up the carbon dioxide which is being trapped in the atmosphere and warming the earth.

When mangroves are cut down, they increase carbon dioxide emissions because there are fewer trees to absorb the excess carbon.

“If communities plant more mangroves then they are helping to mitigate climate change,” Mr Masolo said.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mangrove Forests as Carbon Sinks (Ecosystem Marketplace)

The Allure – and Elusiveness – of Mangrove Forests as Carbon Sinks
Author: Steve Zwick / Ecosystem Marketplace

Mangroves not only protect coasts and nurture young fish, but they could be one of the most potent tools in the battle to slow global warming. Two major reports highlight the ability of mangroves to pull carbon from the atmosphere and bury it in coastal soils, where it can remain for thousands of years. So, why aren’t mangroves the darlings of the REDD set?

7 February 2009 | It’s hard to imagine a more valuable ecosystem than a mangrove forest. These rugged coastal woods protect the shoreline from both sudden storms and gradual erosion; they provide shelter for young fish, breeding grounds for shrimp, and wood for local villagers – all of which are the fruits of clearly delineable ecosystem services, each which has a clear line to who benefits the most.

This should, in theory, make it easy to entice those who benefit into paying for the ecosystem services that mangroves generate. Tourism operators and fishers, for example, could both pay mangrove guardians for the upkeep of coral reefs; fishers could pay for the nurturing of their prey; and anyone along the shore could pay to keep the sea at bay and prevent their houses from falling into the sea.

There’s just one catch: in most developing countries, the people who benefit the most from mangroves don’t have the money to make payments for ecosystem services. This leaves the carbon market as the most promising way to fund the rescue and restoration of mangrove forests, with payments from fishers who export and tourists who visit trailing far behind.

Gold in Blue Carbon

Virtually ignored by carbon markets until recently, “blue carbon” became a hot topic with the 2009 publication of two reports: “Blue Carbon: the Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon” and “The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks”.

Both explored the value of ecosystem services that mangroves provide, but they ultimately concluded that more study was needed before such services could form the basis of payments.

The Rising Tide

Mangroves are especially suited for carbon capture because they pile most of their carbon on the ocean floor, while terrestrial forests keep most of it in trees and branches.

Both mangroves and terrestrial forests put down roots and drop leaves, of course, but when mangroves do it, the ground beneath them rises – as does the level of the sea, as it has for thousands of years, says McGill University professor Gail Chmura, who runs the Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre.

“Mangroves accrete soil vertically as the sea rises,” she says. “Then they also accrete laterally – which means they move inland as the sea moves up.”

The same applies to salt marshes, which move so far inland that when Chmura digs into the mud marshes of New Brunswick, Canada, she often finds the remains of forests below them.

As the levels of both the ocean surface and the mangroves soil rise, so too does the amount of carbon sequestered in the earth – and it can stay there for millennia.

That same rise, however, has a downside: namely, it often makes things inhospitable for the species of mangrove that created it, says McGill researcher Paola Fajardo. She’s studying the carbon storage accumulated in the soils of mangroves in Mexico, with an eye towards developing carbon offsets.

It doesn’t take much of a change in elevation for one species to die out and another to take its place – both in nature and in restoration projects, she says. But if there’s no room for the mangroves to move inland, the mangrove forest can die.

“In some areas species can change based on differences in elevation of just centimeters,” she says. “So, if you have a change in elevation of just one centimeter, you may get another species altogether.”

As a result, mangroves tend to be segregated along species lines within a single forest, as different types of trees seek different elevations within that forest.

Salt Please?

And it doesn’t stop there. Different species also have different taste and tolerance for salt.

“Some species can handle up to 90 units of salinity,” she says. “Each specie is adapted physiologically to different conditions, and some die if salinity gets above 36.”

Seawater, by comparison, usually has about 35 units – so some species thrive on the coast, some a bit inland, and others in areas where seawater gets trapped and salinity increases.

Global warming, therefore, poses a double-whammy of rising sea levels and altered salinity levels for these valuable resources – threatening not only mangroves as they exist today, but making it difficult to project with certainty the amount of carbon that any local action can sequester over time.

“We will be able to do this,” says Fajardo. “But we need to calibrate the soil carbon storage rates with species and salinity.”

Ultimately, that means developing sophisticated coastal plans that take into account the entire ecosystem in which mangroves lie. Many of the current plans for adapting to global warming, for example, involve the erection of dikes to hold back water, while networks of dams have been erected to keep cities from going dry.

Unfortunately, says Fajardo, many of those dikes and dams are altering the flow of runoff from land to sea – depriving the buffering mangroves of the fresh water and sediments they need for the ecosystem to be sustained. Even if done right in the short term, dikes provide a barrier against which mangroves can’t accrete inland – meaning as they rise but can’t migrate inland, they will have to either adapt, perish, or be altered artificially.

When Ecosystem Services Collide

Mangroves are a type of wetland, and one ecosystem service that wetlands provide is filtration: they extract unwanted elements from water passing into them, so that water passing out of them is relatively pure and clean. Chief among these unwanted elements are agricultural nutrients – fertilizers that farmers use to help their plants grow, but which feed unwanted plants like algae when dumped into the sea.

Those nutrients, however, have a tremendous impact on the amount of carbon that mangroves capture and store – and salt has an equally tremendous impact on the net amount of greenhouse gasses that wetlands capture and emit.

Increasing the flow of agricultural runoff from coastal lands can spur the growth of mangroves in height, but it can also diminish the amount of carbon they store in the soil.

“Some counterintuitive things happen when you start to look at root production and soil carbon, at least with grasses in salt marshes,” says Chmura. “For example, the more nutrients you give these grasses, the less root production there is – and therefore the less soil carbon – because the plants don’t need to reach out so much. We suspect it is the same for the mangroves.”

Salt, Again…

On the other hand, she says, more salt in the water usually means more sulphur as well – which usually translates into less methane released into the air and a better impact on the atmosphere, according to research conducted on the Chesapeake Bay back in 1987.

In fact, because methane is 23-times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, many freshwater swamps and bogs may be doing more greenhouse damage than they’re preventing – while saltwater mangroves are, she believes, most certainly doing more good than harm.

Measuring Soil Carbon: the Easy Part

Early research into the amount of carbon sequestered in mangrove soil yielded wildly varying results – but Chmura says that may reflect the fact that most research looks at the percentage of carbon in patch of soil rather than the amount of soil per square meter of territory, which is what the carbon market looks at.

The reason: just as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Moore may weigh the same but be composed differently, soil can be dense or lightweight. Dense soil might have a low percentage of carbon and a high percentage of sediment, while lightweight soil – like the kind in a peat bog – might have a high percentage of carbon and low percentage of sediment. They both, however, sequester the same amount of carbon per meter per year.

“This means that the variability is lower than many people have previously believed,” she says. “We need to take thorough measurements to account for the variability.”

Not Out of the Woods

Both the Clean Development Mechanism and the Voluntary Carbon Standard have established methodologies for measuring, monitoring, and paying for the carbon captured in mangrove forests, but critics say the tools available so far don’t adequately address the most important aspect of mangrove carbon: the soil.

Several efforts are underway to correct this, and one of the most promising is the Danone Fund for Nature, which is an initiative being spearheaded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and Danone (aka Dannon in the US).

The fund has developed guidance and standards for sequestering carbon through wetland restoration projects which also deliver community benefits. A first plot project has been undertaken by the Senegalese NGO Océanium to test the efficacy of using carbon finance to fund mangrove restoration in Senegal.

Danone hopes the project will sequester enough carbon to offset some of the greenhouse gas emissions of its Evian mineral water operations, and it enlisted 80,000 villagers from 350 villages to plant 36 million trees last year. The pilot phase is focusing on planting mangroves, while a subsequent phase might look at the broader hydrological stresses of the mangrove systems in Senegal.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thailand & Mangrove Carbon

Intact mangroves valued at US$1,000 per ha, based on the sale of mangrove fish, storm protection, the sequestration of carbon, and other services.


Mangroves are converted to shrimp farms worth US$200 per ha.

Article includes a good review of threats to wetlands

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Wet wonders

By TAN CHENG LI / the Star Online / Tuesday February 2, 2010

WORLD Wetlands Day is celebrated every Feb 2. It marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Celebrated for the first time in 1997, it is a time to recognise the importance of wetlands and learn about their values and benefits to man. This year’s theme is “Caring For Wetlands – An Answer To Climate Change”.

Wetlands encompasses bogs, marshes, peat swamps, freshwater swamps, lakes, mangroves and river systems, and are generally considered low-value lands, making them susceptible to reclamation for agriculture and other purposes. In truth, however, they are rich in species and provide man with numerous ecological services.

Planting mangrove saplings in Jakarta Bay, Indonesia.

The benefits people obtain from wetlands are varied and include water supply, habitats for wildlife, fish breeding grounds, water purification and waste treatment, flood control, storm protection and recreation. These ecosystem services have been valued by some economists at US$14 trillion (RM49 trillion) annually.

In Thailand, intact mangroves are valued at US$1,000 (RM3,410) per ha based on the sale of mangrove fish and the additional value of non-marketed services such as storm protection and the sequestration of carbon. On the other hand, if the mangroves are converted to shrimp farms, their worth plunges to only US$200 per ha.

We cannot afford, for environmental, social or economic reasons, to lose wetlands; yet we have been doing just that. Losses range from 53% in the United States to a staggering 90% in New Zealand. The world has lost half its wetlands and still is, especially in developing countries.

Erosion is eating away at this Maldivian island.

What are we doing to cause losses in wetlands?

Habitat loss through wetlands claimed for agriculture and for urban and industrial development.

Excessive freshwater withdrawals especially for irrigation, and for domestic and industrial water needs. This leads not only to less freshwater availability inland but less freshwater.

flow to coastal areas from rivers, thereby impacting coastal ecosystems.

Siltation in coastal areas from the outflow from silt-laden rivers.

Invasive species have disrupted the abundance and survival of native species. These alien species can arrive as “hitch-hikers” on ship hulls and in ship ballast waters or as escapees from the aquarium and ornamental plant trades. Sometimes species are introduced for agricultural, aquaculture and forestry purposes.

Pollution through: agricultural runoff that releases pesticides and fertilisers into rivers; toxic industrial wastes; and untreated or partially treated sewage.

Over-exploitation of fish, shellfish, prawns, seaweed and wetlands timber, which reduces the capacity of the ecosystem to function.

Nutrient loading from nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals – mostly from agriculture but also from poorly treated domestic waste – causes excessive algal growth and the resulting reduction in other species.

The effect of climate change on wetland ecosystems and species

Wetlands found in prairies, tropical and boreal forests, arctic and alpine ecosystems, and coral reefs and mangroves, will be especially vulnerable to climate change because they have a limited capacity to adapt to change.

Expected increases in sea surface temperature of about 1°C to 3°C are likely to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality of corals.

Coastal wetlands, including salt marshes and mangroves, are likely to be negatively affected by sea-level rise, especially where there are inland physical barriers (such as sea walls and dykes); many areas will be damaged by coastal flooding through storms and tidal surges.

Changes in the timing and volume of freshwater runoff from inland wetlands will affect salinity, nutrient levels and moisture regimes in coastal ecosystems – all of which will impact coastal ecosystem functions.

Certain invasive species might spread further with increasing temperatures.

What can be done for wetlands?

Maintain the health of our intact wetlands.

Address the key drivers of wetlands loss and degradation (habitat loss, pollution, excessive water withdrawals, invasive species and over-exploitation).

Identify vulnerable species and ecosystems, and implement action plans for their recovery.

Prioritise and plan wetlands management and restoration programmes for more variable climate in future.

Restore degraded wetlands since healthier wetlands are more resilient than degraded ones.

Address the additional impact of climate change on wetlands species and ecosystems through climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

(Mitigation requires us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to encourage the removal of such gases already in the atmosphere by “trapping” them in soils and vegetation.

Wetlands species under threat

Waterbirds are more threatened than all birds and their status has deteriorated faster in the last 20 years.

Of the 1,138 waterbird populations whose trends are known, 41% are in decline. Some 140 out of 826 waterbird species are threatened.

38% of the freshwater-dependent mammal species that have been assessed are globally threatened; these include groups such as manatees and river dolphins.

33% of the world’s freshwater fish species are threatened.

26% of the world’s freshwater amphibian species are considered threatened and at least 42% of all amphibian species assessed are declining in population.

65 of the 90 freshwater turtles species that have been assessed are globally threatened. Six of the seven species of marine turtles are threatened.

Three out of five crocodile species assessed are threatened.

27% of coral-building species that have been assessed are considered threatened.

Source: Ramsar Convention Secretariat / Data from the IUCN Red List, BirdLife International and Wetlands International

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wetlands: an answer to climate change - Happy World Wetlands Day!

What do wetlands do for to you?

February 2 marks the anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971). This year’s theme is Wetlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change, with the slogan “Caring for wetlands: an answer to climate change."

"The role of wetlands in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change must be central in all future debates about the way forward."

Mr Anada Tiéga
Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
World Wetlands Day 2010: Message from the Secretary General:^24351_4000_0__

Wetlands play a key role in combating the emission of greenhouse gases - the primary driver of climate change. Although wetlands cover only six per cent of the Earth’s land surface they store about 35% of global terrestrial carbon.

Ahmed Djoghlaf
Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Message on the occasion of World Wetlands Day:

(Blue) saltwater tidal marsh wetlands may be the way to go - "Unlike many freshwater wetlands, saltwater tidal marshes release only negligible amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas; therefore, the carbon storage benefits of tidal salt marshes are not reduced by methane production. In addition, as sea levels rise, tidal marsh plains continue to build up to match the rise in water level, if suspended sediments are adequate, continually pulling carbon dioxide out of the air in the process."

Dr. Lynne Trulio, White Paper on Carbon Sequestration and Tidal Salt Marsh Restoration, Dec. 20, 2007


Ramsar Convention on Wetlands:

Focus on caring for wetlands as an answer to climate change (Philippine Information Agency):