Friday, December 9, 2011

First Policy Action Plan/ Blue Carbon

First Policy Action Plan for World's Blue Carbon
6 December 2011/ by Conservation International

"Blue Carbon Policy Framework" is Released at U.N. Climate Talks in Durban; Highlights Results of First Meeting of International Blue Carbon Policy Working Group

Durban, South Africa/Arlington, VA — The first policy framework outlining activities needed to include coastal marine areas such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses into the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been presented in a report by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Conservation International (CI), two of the leading members of the Blue Carbon Initative.

The report, "Blue Carbon Policy Framework" (PDF), outlines the opportunities for including the conservation of coastal areas in the climate change policies and financing processes currently being negotiated in Durban. The study also highlights the need for the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the voluntary carbon market to take coastal marine ecosystems into account.

"The oceans and marine biodiversity are crucial in regulating the global climate", says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme. "Oceans absorb 93.4 percent of the heat produced by climate change as well as one third of human-induced carbon dioxide. Coastal areas also have an exceptional capacity to store carbon. But currently natural solutions that the marine world offers to climate change challenges are rarely taken into account in international climate change policy."

The UNFCCC and the mechanism known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation), support the conservation and restoration of terrestrial forests as a way to reduce the effects of climate change. But the importance of coastal carbon sinks, such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses, is not yet fully recognized by the Convention.

Although coastal ecosystems cover only one to two percent of the area covered by forests globally, improving their management can supplement efforts to reduce emissions from tropical forest degradation. A square kilometer of a coastal ecosystem can store up to five times more carbon than a square kilometer of mature tropical forests. But currently these areas are being destroyed three to four times faster than forests, releasing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the ocean, and contributing to climate change.

"We think this recognition is critical," explains report co-author Dr. Emily Pidgeon, Conservation International's Senior Director of Marine Strategic Initiatives and a leading Blue Carbon conservation scientist. "The management of carbon in coastal systems can already be included in a number of UNFCCC and REDD+ components. This plan was produced to help detail what we see as key next steps in terms of a full integration of blue carbon into existing initiatives."

"We now have scientific evidence that conserving mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses and other blue carbon habitats is a very precious tool in our fight against climate change," says Pierre-Yves Cousteau, IUCN's Goodwill Ambassador and founder of Cousteau Divers, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the marine world. "These muddy coastal areas also help us adapt to the changing climate. They protect local communities from storms and regulate the quality of coastal water. Increased recognition of their importance among the climate change community will hopefully improve the way they're managed and conserved."

"We need to convince the broader policy community that blue carbon has a strong scientific basis and that it should be taken into account as a valuable tool in our suite of global efforts to confront and adapt to the impacts of climate change. We also need decision makers to understand that this tool requires adequate funding to maximize the many benefits it provides to people," adds Pidgeon

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blue Carbon; Green Harbors

Blue Carbon; Green Harbors

6 December 2011/ by Lisa Greber/ Global Environmental Governance Project

In North Durban, the Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve is a 76 hectare reserve with the largest population of mangrove trees still remaining in the Durban area. Mangroves are at first sight ungainly trees, with rough bark and contorted branches, but they are a critical part of coastal ecosystems, providing shoreline protection from storm surge and beach erosion, and habitat for numerous species. The plants survive in the difficult conditions of the intertidal, submerged in salty water, and often in anoxic, oxygen deprived mud. Their roots, if remaining fully submerged, can offer hard surfaces for the growth of barnacles, sponges, and oysters.

This is the life behind the phrase “blue carbon” heard throughout COP17.

The loss of blue carbon means that globally coastal ecosystems – mangroves, salt marshes, eelgrass, and shellfish – have been lost to development, over-harvesting, and disease. Mangrove forests once likely covered the Durban coastal area, as did salt marshes along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Restoring these habitats may hold promise to mitigate the effects of global warming, both as carbon storage and as shoreline protection against rising seas. Restoration also supports the complex ecosystems of organisms that find their homes there.

Anamarija Frankic, director of the Green Boston Harbor Project (GBH) at the Center for Governance and Sustainability is not sure if the new language will be sufficient to encourage communities to restore coastal and marine habitats such as mangroves, salt marshes and shellfish beds. Little has been done to protect them before, she says, even knowing their tremendous ecological services and values. But there are hopeful signs. On some beaches around Durban, patches of mangrove are growing.

The Umgeni River wanders some 230 km before opening into the Beachwood mangrove reserve. In Boston, the Charles, the Neponset, and the Mystic Rivers drain into Boston Harbor. The health of “blue carbon” depends on the watersheds upstream, on the choices upland communities make to protect the water, as much as it does on the restoration efforts on the shore. The water connects us.

Each harbor is different, each one is similar. GBH has started a network of global green harbors to share best practices and community around the globe.

We were always a blue planet, says Anamarija, meaning the rough wild Indian Ocean of Durban’s shores, water that has traveled its way around the world. In the end it is not the name for “blue carbon” that matters, but the mangroves themselves, and our collective willingness to care for our particular coastal habitats and harbors in the context of a global whole.

(Based on reports from Durban from GBH Director Anamarija Frankic)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bellona/ Blue Carbon

‘We will make the oceans blue, bind carbon and create green jobs’

4 December 2011/ by Magnus Borgen (Bellona), Charles Digges (translator)/ Durban Climate Summit

From left to right: Ik-Kyo Chung of Pusan National University in South Korea; Dorothée Herr of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Bellona President Frederic Hauge.

DURBAN, South Africa – Sustainable marine biomass was on the agenda when Bellona hosted a debate at its venue at the Durban UN Climate Summit.

“Marine biomass has vast theoretical potential internationally and can play an important role as a key solution in future climate treaties,”* said Bellona President Frederic Hauge.

“Now we are discussing environmental issues I am passionate about, and Bellona will do much work in the future. What we are talking about now may be the next major new weapon in the fight against climate change,” said Hauge as Bellona presented its integrated aquaculture program to a large international audience from four continents in Bellona’s delegation room Friday.

From COP14 in Poznan for COP17 in Durban

This side event in Durban was held due to a side event at COP14 in Poznan, Poland where Haugue and Svend Søyland, Bellona’s adviser on international energy and climate issues were present. At COP14, Hauge and Søyland attended an event during which South Korean Professor Ik-Kyo Chung from Pusan National University was speaking of his work on how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced with the use of algae, seaweed and kelp. Chung presented encouraging and positive results of his university research on how seaweed farming can be a mitigation tactic to reduce greenhouse gasses that would be released into the atmosphere.

Chung argued here in Durban that is very important to establish a system within the international climate regime where one could get certified interim emissions reductions from algae growing in the sea, as there are major climate gains to be achieved via a solid focus on this type of marine biomass.

Along with Bellona and South Korea’s Chung, Dorothée Herr of the International Union for Conservation of Nature was also on the dais in Bellona’s conference room. The IUCN is a recognized international organization with a membership base of more than 1000 organizations and 10,000 scientists and experts.

“Climate negotiators should focus on creating incentives for preserving marine ecosystems such as mangroves, and punish those who harm it,” said Herr to those assembles.

Herr pointed out that the oceans are a very important habitat, and that the process of carbon bonding in water-bound saline plants is higher than that of plants on land. Herr therefore presented good arguments that mangrove forests at sea should be implemented in the UN’s REDD+ rainforest preservation mechanism at the climate negotiations. Carbon sequestration at sea, also called Blue Carbon, has 20 percent of the potential that REDD has.

“Mangrove binds much carbon in the soil, and the IUCN will work for this to get increased attention as an important international climate measure,” said Herr.

Too many people think small thoughts about the environment and climate

Frederic Hauge opened his speech by pointing out that if one were to cover the biofuel needs of the world’s aviation industry by cultivating soybeans, one would need to cultivate an area the size of Europe and the Ukraine.

“If the same amount of biomass production should take place through algae production on land, then one would only need an area the size of Belgium,” said Hauge.

Hauge argued that there are great opportunities for all coastal nations around the world to see the exciting low cost synergies between the fishing industry, offshore renewable energy and the cultivation of seaweed and kelp. He noted that there is a very large theoretical potential for offshore wind turbines becoming a very good habitat for fish and marine biomass.

“We don’t have all the answers just yet, but working further  with integrated fish farming in the fight against climate change is doubtless something that must have more resources,” said Hauge.

The world community needs to create green jobs for 2 billion people who need jobs the next 20 years, both people and animals need food, we need medicine and Omega 3 and not least, we need much more bioenergy, said Hauge enthusiastically. Hauge also pointed out Bellona’s algae work in Madagascar as an example of how developing coastal strip counties have more theoretical potential for development than many think.
“Bellona’s focus on integrated aquaculture is part of a tradition where we focus on solution-oriented work. There are too many people who think small thoughts about climate change,” said Hauge.

“I think it's very inspiring to work with environmental protection and be here in Durban where we can work to make the sky blue with our CCS work, the desert green with the Sahara Forest Project, and to make the ocean blue and exploit very exciting synergies with Bellona’s coming Ocean Forest Project,” said a very optimistic Hauge.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oceans Day at Durban/ Blue Carbon

Oceans Day at Durban Discusses Blue Carbon

3 December 2011/ by iisd

 Oceans Day 2011, part of the Durban Climate Change Conference, addressed various issues related to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), including the concept of blue carbon and the green economy.

Oceans Day took place on 3 December 2011, on the sidelines of the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa.

Participants engaged in a session on "Oceans and coasts at the UNFCCC and at Rio+20: The need for concerted action," with a number of speakers underlining the need for strengthened blue carbon policy capacity, and for accelerating the uptake of ocean and coastal-based carbon mitigation approaches. Biliana Cicin-Sain, President, Global Ocean Forum, underscored the importance of achieving greater equity in management of fisheries with greater benefits for coastal communities, noting the relevance of this issue in the Rio+20 process.

The meeting forwarded a Chair's statement to COP 17, in which the global oceans community calls attention to the need to develop an integrated programme for oceans and coasts within and beyond the UNFCCC. It recommends various actions, including deepening understanding and policy approaches to support blue carbon.

Oceans Day was co-organized by the Global Ocean Forum, in association with a number of partners, including the Government of South Africa, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the GEF/UNDP/UN Environment Programme (UNEP) African LME projects. [IISD RS Coverage] [Oceans Day at Durban Co-Chairs’ Statement]

Friday, November 11, 2011

GEF Council Approves “Blue Forests” Project

Blue Carbon included in "Blue Forests" project, Project Preparation Grant (PPG) next...

GEF council members approve more than half a billion dollars worth of projects – the second largest GEF work program in its history

Washington DC, November 9, 2011

Today the GEF Council, the governing body of the Global Environment Facility, approved an unprecedented large work program within the fifth replenishment cycle of the GEF. With 40 stand alone projects and 9 programmatic approaches amounting to $516.40 million, this work program represents double the average submissions made since its creation 20 years ago.

In addition, an impressive amount of $4.1 billion has been leveraged from GEF partners to further expand the reach of the program. As a result, 99 recipient countries will benefit from this work program alone, the largest number ever included in a single submission by the GEF.

This work program is however, not only remarkable because of its size, but also due to the key innovations around which it has been designed.

In terms of programmatic strategy, this work program addresses environment issues in the most holistic, comprehensive manner achieved so far, as evidenced by twenty one multi-focal area projects, joint GEF Agency (UNDP, UNEP, World Bank) partnerships in four projects/programs submitted and four initiatives combining the GEF resources with those of other environment related trust funds. Comparative advantages of each partner, are assembled in this most effective program implementation arrangement ever put together by the GEF.

For example, with the Marine and Coastal Protected Areas project, Brazil will significantly increase protection of its marine area by addressing unsustainable fishing practices, discharge of pollutants and industrial impact in an integrated manner. In addition, this project includes financing mechanisms to generate revenues for the sustainable management of these protected areas through climate change related mechanisms (Blue Carbon) and payment for ecosystem services.

This work program includes many other large-impact projects around the world. For example in China, the Main Streams of Life-Wetland Protected Area System Strengthening for Biodiversity Conservation will create a strong national system for managing 48,962,400 hectares of wetlands, and protect an additional 1.7 million hectares containing 50 unprotected threatened species.

Similarly, the impact of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM/REDD+) projects will in this work program reach proportions never achieved before. Through the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities these projects alone will save over 3 million tons of CO2 emissions in combating deforestation and forest degradation, while creating 2.5 million hectares of new protected areas, and implement sustainable management regimes across1.3 million hectares more.

One of the most innovative International Waters initiatives in this work program is the “Blue Forests” project. Research has recently found coastal habitats like mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs, and salt marshes (referred to as Blue Forests) to trap more carbon per unit area than terrestrial habitats. For the first time their true worth as key assets in environmental management has been recognized. The objective of this project is to develop methodologies to estimate carbon trapped by coastal and marine systems as well as to demonstrate their economic value.

This most ambitious work program reflects a holistic approach to environmental challenges, is based on community and indigenous people participation, maximization of impact through strong partnerships and financial leverage, all of which are a direct result from the string of key reforms that the GEF has carried out during the last few years.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Coastal Blue Carbon & NOAA

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is setting the standard high for Blue Carbon sites with their Coastal Blue Carbon web page. This may be the first “government” site on Blue Cabron. Please see the links, the site speaks for itself.

Congratulations to NOAA and the Habitat Conservation Office!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Ecosystem Services Toolkit

Carbon services included...

A ‘toolkit’ for measuring ecosystem services at the site scale is released

'Measuring and Monitoring Ecosystem Services at the Site Scale' introduces a new ‘toolkit’ for measuring ecosystem services at the site scale which is accessible to non-experts and delivers scientifically robust results. This booklet explains some key concepts including the need to consider a ‘plausible alternative state’ to measure differences resulting from changes in land management and use, and the importance of identifying beneficiaries.

The work has been coordinated by researchers and conservation biologists from Anglia Ruskin University, BirdLife International, Cambridge University, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, with input and guidance provided by over 50 other scientists.

What can the toolkit do?
  • Help users with limited capacity (technical knowledge, time) and resources (money, ‘man’ power) to measure ecosystem services.
  • Provide simple gross assessments of ecosystem services at sites, and a way of assessing how these would change if the sites were altered.
  • Provide scientifically robust information on ecosystem services—a first step which can guide practitioners on whether more detailed studies would be useful.
  • Indicate who will be the ‘winners’ and who will be the ‘losers’ as a result of any change in land use and ecosystem service delivery.
  • Help decision-makers appreciate the true value of nature, and the consequences of destruction and degradation of natural habitats.
The methods and approaches presented in the toolkit have been tested at four sites to-date (2011), including Shivapuri–Nagarjun National Park (Nepal), Phulchoki Mountain Forest (Nepal), Montserrat Centre Hills (Montserrat) and Wicken Fen (UK), with implementation and support from Bird Conservation Nepal, the Department of Environment in Montserrat and the National Trust in the UK. In 2012, there are plans for further testing at a number of additional sites and publication of the methods and results through the peer-reviewed scientific literature, as well as the development of a ‘toolkit’ user-manual.

The toolkit has been developed, thus far, through two projects: A Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) project entitled ‘Measuring and monitoring ecosystem services at the site scale: building practical tools for real-world conservation’ and a BirdLife International / Darwin Initiative project entitled ‘Understanding, assessing and monitoring ecosystem services for better biodiversity conservation’.

The booklet is available to download below:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Global Blue Carbon Market Proposed by Five UN Agencies

Global Blue Carbon Market Proposed by Five UN Agencies

PARIS, France, November 1, 2011 (ENS) - A global blue carbon market that would create direct economic gain for those who protect ocean habitats is the main feature of a plan issued today by five United Nations agencies to improve the management of the world's ocean and coastal areas.

The "Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability" says that the agencies intend to work with existing international carbon markets to define and implement a blue carbon market for protecting marine and coastal carbon sinks.

Rainbow frames a salt marsh in the Wadden Sea, Germany. (Photo by Peter Femto)

Oceans act as sinks for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2. In fact, the oceans are the largest active carbon sink on Earth, absorbing 26 percent of all CO2 emissions.

One reason for the oceans' big share of carbon is its biological pump, which removes carbon dioxide from the ocean surface, changing it into living matter and distributing it to the deeper water layers.

Out of all the biological carbon captured in the world, 55 percent is taken up at sea by marine living organisms, and so is called blue carbon.

At least half of this is captured by the ocean's vegetated habitats - mangroves, salt marshes, seagrasses, and seaweed. These plants cover less than 0.5 percent of the seabed, but play an important role in regulating the climate and mitigating climate change.

The five UN agencies that authored the Blueprint - UNESCO, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Maritime Organization, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization - warn that although the oceans account for 70 percent of the planet's surface, only one percent of that area is protected.

To develop and implement a global strategy on blue carbon, their Blueprint says standards must be agreed for blue carbon monitoring and certification. Targets must be set for habitat protection in the context of blue carbon.

In addition, economic valuation methodologies must be developed for blue forest ecosystem services.

The agencies say they will work to create global acceptance of ocean and coastal habitats as a new form of tradable carbon market with a "global blue carbon fund."

Within international climate change policy instruments, they intend to create mechanisms that will allow the future use of carbon credits for marine and coastal ecosystem carbon capture and storage.

The critical role of oceans and their ecosystems has been overlooked, the agencies say. They aim to ensure oceans and coastal ecosystems are not neglected at the upcoming Rio+20 conference scheduled for June 2012.

Mangrove forest on the coast of Yangjiang, Guangdong, China (Photo by Leo Zhu)

Their report emphasises that 60 percent of the world's major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably, resulting in huge economic and social losses.

Mangrove forests have lost 30 to 50 percent of their original cover in the last 50 years while coral reefs have lost 20 percent, increasing the vulnerability of many highly populated coastal areas.

The ocean absorbs close to 26 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions. This is causing acidification of the oceans that is already threatening some varieties of plankton and poses a threat to the entire marine food chain and the human livelihoods that depend on the oceans and coastal waters.

"Some of these phenomena are not new but are aggravated by cumulative pressures such as climate change, intensified human activity and technological advances," the agencies said today.

"Ecosystems situated in the deep ocean, where biodiversity and habitats often have major value, but are generally not well understood, have virtually no protection at all."

The international community pledged to tackle these challenges at the United Nations summits in Rio in 1992 and Johannesburg (in 2002.

But the commitments made there remain ineffective and their objectives have not been met, the UN agencies acknowledge. Neither the pledge to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, nor the promise to create networks of protected marine areas by 2012 have been met.

Few countries have adopted legislation to reduce land-based marine pollution,which has led to an increase in the number of dead ocean areas, the report finds. More than 400 marine areas have been listed as "biologically dead."

"The full implementation of many of these goals and targets will require further efforts by states, intergovernmental organizations and the international community," write the authors.

They claim the present situation is the result of insufficient political will and resources, inadequate institutional capacities, insufficient scientific data and market imbalances.

"Greening the Blue Economy will be science and technology driven," they conclude. "But success will depend on sound policy processes and effective institutional arrangements and will therefore require commitment and funding from the international community as well as nations and industry." 

Available at:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blue Carbon in Canada

Courtenay River Estuary could hold 'blue key' to lock in carbon dioxide

By Philip Round, Comox Valley Echo October 21, 2011

The Courtenay River Estuary is the largest estuary found on Vancouver Island (Image courtesy Sierra Club BC).

The Courtenay River Estuary could hold a blue key that locks in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Comox Valley Regional District directors heard on Tuesday.

Paul Horgen, chair of Project Watershed, said local governments would have to start paying money to the province in the form of 'carbon offsets' from next year.

But his group saw an opportunity to spend that money on estuary restoration work here.

He sought support for a pilot project to investigate the potential for 'blue carbon' capture through the extensive restoration of eel grass beds and sedges in salt marsh riparian zones.

Research elsewhere has suggested that such plants were 90 times more effective than trees in absorbing the gas.

The plants stored it, and when the died back - as they did several times a year - and the vegetation rotted into the mud, the absorbed carbon dioxide was locked away for good, and in the far distant future would eventually become coal.

Horgen hoped it would be possible to persuade the province to divert $100,000 of the carbon offset payments it would be receiving to fund a hands-on pilot project here in the local estuary.

That would not only measure the effectiveness of carbon capture, possibly providing a model for many other north American estuaries, but also see the extensive replanting of eel grasses and sedges employing young people in the process.

It was, he suggested, a win-win, because even if the intensity of capture could not proved - although he believed it would be - the replanting project would help restore the estuary to its former abundance with big salmon returning as they did in the 1950s.

Regional district directors liked the idea and are now recommending the full board supports the project.

They are proposing the province be asked if they will allow local governments to invest their carbon off-set payments in blue carbon projects, such as the Courtenay River Estuary pilot project, rather than just sending the money to Victoria for undetermined use.

They will also suggest the Union of British Columbia Municipalities take up the issue, as it could be relevant to many other coastal areas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mangroves of Fiji - Blue Carbon and other Ecosystem Services

Mangroves of Fiji noted for the many important ecosystem services they provide including:
  • Filtering land-born sediments, thereby helping to protect adjacent coral reefs;
  • Absorbing and storing the greenhouse gases (Blue Carbon);
  • Acting as nursery grounds for commercially important fish species;
  • Protecting shorelines from cyclones and tsunamis; and
  • Providing resilience to climate change

Mangroves much maligned

Sunday, October 16, 2011, Kate Findley, WWF

Mangrove trees catch sediment from the river to build a base for their roots.

How would you describe a mangrove forest? Muddy, smelly, and mosquito-infested?

The land's not suitable to build on, the fish are small, refuse collects in the tangled web of roots that keep trying to trip you like a cartoon character, stunted shoots cut and scratch at you and it's impossible to navigate without years of experience or a compass. These are perhaps the reasons for Fiji's mangrove area declining by 13% between 1978 and 1994.

However contrary to popular belief mangrove forests are actually extremely productive and biodiverse ecosystems - linking the land to the sea they prevent debris from washing onto reefs, absorb and store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and act as nursery grounds for commercially important fish including rabbitfish (nuqa), bumphead parrotfish (kalia) and many shark (qio) species.

The mangrove corridor to the Great Sea Reef

There is a close connection between mangroves and the Great Sea Reef, the third longest reef in the southern hemisphere, hugging the entire northern coast of Vanua Levu. Those in the NGO business often consider the Great Sea Reef to be "the hidden gem" of the South Pacific with its globally significant biodiversity, 12 IUCN Red Listed species including the green turtle, humphead wrasse and manta ray, as well as its sheer length.

The Great Sea Reef's health is in large part dependent on that of its mangrove corridor which fringes the Labasa River from hilltop to river mouth before the river water flows on to the reef. Mangroves roots - those extensive, tangled masses - trap particles from the river, so that the tree in effect builds an environment for itself from which it can obtain nutrients and anchor its roots.

By trapping particles, mangroves clarify and purify the water, creating that wondrously clear aquamarine water essential for coral reefs to receive sunlight and flourish; and by absorbing excess nutrients they prevent algae enshrouding the slow-growing coral.

Recent scientific evidence following the 2004 Boxing Day Aceh tsunami indicates that mangroves are also effective buffers for the shore when cyclones and tsunamis strike; fewer lives are lost and less damage is caused in communities with broader mangrove belts, earning them the nickname "bioshields".

Putting a plaster on a gaping wound

With lives and livelihoods lost in the furious flash floods that strike Labasa year after year, in 2008 it was decided to dredge the Labasa River, which flows directly through the centre of the town. Floods have always been a problem in Labasa, which is unsurprising considering it sits straddling three rivers in a flat, low-lying estuary that used to be a swamp.

For those who are not familiar with the term, dredging is the process of excavating the sediment lying at the bottom of a river bed to deposit it somewhere else, which at least in the short term deepens the water channel so it can carry a larger volume of water at any one time.

So what's the problem? Environmental group the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) have recently been speaking out about the impact dredging is having on the surrounding mangroves.

"Unfortunately, the act of dredging to deepen the channels and river mouth is in this case creating a false sense of security with the dredging's capacity to do more harm than good." Ms Monifa Fiu, Building Resilience Officer at WWF South Pacific commented.

"The way dredging is currently being conducted in the Labasa river just now, the material or 'spoil' that is dredged from the bottom of the river is being dumped in the first line of mangroves on the river bank, killing them."

"My fear is that as storm frequency increases due to climate change, we will have to dredge much more often, progressively destroying the layers of mangroves that line the bank."

Ms Fiu noted these dead patches on a field trip assessing the vulnerability of these mangroves to climate change as part of the major new AusAID funded 'Building Resilience' project, which aims to strengthen the resilience of the Ba and Labasa river catchments to the effects of climate change. The patches were of mature black mangroves (dogo) - a species of particular note for their protection and stabilization of low-lying coastal areas. In short, their message is clear: In Fiji we gain so much from mangroves that we cannot afford for them to be damaged as a result of poor planning. Mangrove build, mangroves protect, mangroves host and mangroves provide.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Climate Conversations - Uprooting families to save trees

A critique of REDD+, some questions to keep in mind as Blue Carbon advances:
  • Does rights and access to ecosystems present an even more intensive issue for Blue Carbon then REDD+? (Many more people live on coastlines than in forests.)
  • People have lived on coastlines for many generations, is there anything we can learn from traditional practices that promote environmental sustainability?
  • Is it possible to incorporate traditional sustainable practices into a Blue Carbon approach?
  • Is it important to ensure the right of coastal communities to the environment where they live? And how would this be accomplished in a Blue Carbon approach?
  • How could coastal communities also receive a fair share of Blue Carbon benefits?
- Steven

Climate Conversations - Uprooting families to save trees

By Darryl Vhugen | Tue., October 4, 2011

In this 2005 file photo, traditional honey collectors row a boat during honey collection at Bali Island in the Sunderbans mangrove forest delta in India (REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw).

Much has been written about the global land rush –the trend in which investors, eager to establish plantations to produce food or biofuel at a discount, buy up or lease vast swaths of farmland in the developing world. In the process they often uproot entire villages, reducing small indigenous farmers to legions of landless poor.

From Uganda to Cambodia, there are reports of farmers and herders being told, often with little notice or compensation, that they must vacate their land to make room for investors.

Often, these investors have negotiated directly with central authorities and have promised jobs, technology, and infrastructure improvements in exchange for the land. But their promises of benefits to locals often go unfulfilled.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this accelerating trend of largely unregulated commercial land acquisitions threatens not only the developing world’s farmers and pastoralists, but also the world’s forests and the people who depend on them.

That’s because as farmland becomes increasingly scarce, investors and others are looking to forest land for their food and biofuel production.

At least 400 million people are highly dependent on forests for their livelihoods. These forest dwellers often have sustainably used and managed their forest land for generations.

They survive by gathering medicinal plants, and produce like honey and mushrooms. But they often have no formal legal claim to the land or forest resources. The forests they use now cover about 30 percent of the planet.

These people and the forests they use are increasingly at risk.

A recent report from the Rights and Resources Initiative highlights the implications: “Now that forest lands are increasingly valuable for agriculture, carbon and biofuels, there is greater pressure from investors and less interest by many governments to recognize the local land rights.”

Fortunately, international groups including the UN and the World Bank have created a tool called REDD+ - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation - to help protect the world’s forests.

This international program is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through (1) avoiding the release of carbon stored in trees when trees are cut down; (2) encouraging the storage of additional carbon by leaving trees standing; and (3) promoting reforestation.

If the international community can agree on the details, at some point, REDD+ funds will flow to heavily forested countries that take steps to preserve and grow their forests.

It sounds good except for one missing element: the rights of forest dwellers.

Tens of millions of traditional people have lived in and around the forest for generations and managed the forest sustainably, taking what they need but ensuring that the ecosystem continues to thrive.

Will these people be allowed to continue using forest products sustainably and receive their fair share of these funds for preserving, protecting and managing the forest? Or will governments bypass the people and pocket all of the money themselves?

Recent headlines make clear, no matter what the source of the demand for forest land (conservation or timber), traditional forest dwellers can be the big losers as more powerful interests, public and private, force them out of the forest or preclude them from engaging in their customary activities.

Admirable motives could lead to deeply troubling unintended consequences – families uprooted to save trees.

This is discouraging particularly because research indicates that forests that are actively managed by local communities thrive. They can actually have lower rates of deforestation than protected areas where forest resource use is completely prohibited.

And obviously from a social stability, socio-economic and human rights standpoint, allowing these traditional people to remain in the forest makes sense.

For the past several months a team at Landesa has conducted a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded study of the property rights implications of REDD+.

We carried out field research in Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, Tanzania and Mozambique. One of our conclusions is that for REDD+ to be effective in the long-term, and for the world to create a sustainable forest conservation program, a substantial portion of the financial benefit must go to the communities who have the ability to manage and protect the forest.

Often that will be the local, forest-dependent community.

Such a path would require governments, many of whom are poor and cash strapped, to forego a part of the REDD+ payments they would receive and pass the cash on to often powerless and voiceless forest dwellers. Recent reports indicate that this is not happening.

In order for REDD+ to be successful, these forest communities must have secure rights to the land where they live. They must also receive a fair share of REDD+ benefits.

Otherwise, the remaining tropical forests will continue to shrink and we will undermine one of the most cost-effective and promising climate change strategies available.

Darryl Vhugen is a senior attorney and land tenure specialist with Landesa, a non-profit organisation that has advised and partnered with government departments and other groups in more than 40 countries to help extend secure land rights to the rural poor.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Blue Carbon in Suriname

Restoring mangroves may give Suriname carbon credits

05 Oct 2011 15:30 / Alertnet / Marvin Hokstam

John Goedschalk and Sieuwnath Naipal monitor the growth of mangroves planted along Suriname's coastline. ALERTNET/Marvin Hokstam

CORONIE DISTRICT, Suriname (Alertnet) -- The seawall that is supposed to protect the muddy coastline of coconut district Coronie, in the country's north, is almost complete.

Standing some 10 meters above sea level, the wide dam provides a scenic drive, with virginal land on both sides and fish-filled channels cutting through it - a dream habitat for wildlife.

But this idyllic situation may not last long. According to University of Suriname professor Sieuwnath Naipal, much of the land on the ocean side of the 15-km-long dam will disappear in 20 years, abandoned as unsalvageable as the country focuses on forming a barrier against the waves that are eroding Coronie District’s coastline.

The dam, which contractors started building two years ago, sits about 100 meters inland; everything between it and the sea is sacrificed to the waves. Already, about 50 meters of the road to the dyke has disappeared, chewed away by the constant barrage of salt water.

“That’s a part of our country we already lost,” Naipal says, shaking his head.

The solution to preventing similar losses, Naipal says, is his mangrove reintroduction project, which he believes will save the land that others have given up on.

As it does so, the project could also turn out to be a groundbreaking money-earner for Suriname, potentially making the country tens of millions of dollars from the carbon-compliance market.


A few kilometres beyond the end of the seawall, black mangrove seedlings Naipal planted on a mudbank a year ago are thriving. Where there was bare muck, mangrove plants now stand up to two meters tall. Red ibises and other birds frolic among the plants.

“This project has exceeded my expectations,” says Naipal, a Russian-trained hydrologist.

He started planting the cloned mangrove seedlings as part of a university project supported by the Suriname Conservation Foundation (SCF), a government-funded NGO. The project was supposed to prove that, under the right circumstances, mangroves could be introduced to protect the country's heavily eroding coastline from moving further inland.

That has proved the case. Naipal discovered that the mud banks that shift along Suriname’s coastline at a pace of 1-to-5 kilometres per year manage the flow of inland freshwater as it meets sea water, creating the perfect level of salinity for mangroves, which used to be plentiful along the coast.

For centuries, coastal mangrove forests worked as a natural protection against erosion, their stilt-like air roots locking in the shifting mud spit out by Brazil's Amazon River and causing Suriname’s coastline to expand.

Naipal believes the construction in the 1960s of the East-West link, the road from the capital Paramaribo to the western border district of Nickerie, disturbed the natural flow of freshwater out to sea, causing a slow but mass demise of the country's mangroves.

With the plants gone, the sea has free rein and Suriname's coastline has been retreating. Over the past ten years, coastal district Coronie has been getting smaller by about 100 meters per year, and residents now fear for their fields and livelihoods.


Naipal agreed that a seawall was necessary to save Suriname's coast - but he also was convinced it wouldn't be enough and that mangrove reintroduction could play a key role.

With his tentative proof that reintroduction works, the professor now wants to convince MNO Vervat, the Dutch company building the dyke, to consider investing in freshwater channels to the sea and to allow him to plant alongside a longer stretch of coast.

“They are shipping thousands of kilograms of boulders down here, to reinforce the foot of the dam,” he said. But "if they would fix the (freshwater channels) and allow me to plant the mangroves, the waves would never reach the dam.

“I'm saying: let's see if I’m right. If I’m wrong they can always spend all that money on the boulders two years from now,” he said.

Along with the environmental benefits, Naipal sees in his project an opportunity to boost tourism and employment in Suriname's coastal areas – and make the sea wall sustainable.

“With mangroves alongside the coastline we will continue to have forests on both sides of the seawall, which can then serve as a boulevard with a tourism industry surrounded by wildlife," he says. "But without the mangroves, the sea will slowly eat away the dam [and] after this dam is gone, more money will have to be spent on building a new one."

"The erosion of the coastline will continue if we don’t do anything," he says. "Building a dam is us expecting that nature will adapt to us. But we need to adapt to nature and assist it where we can."


If successful, Naipal's project could not only stop Suriname from shrinking, but could boost the country's coffers. His efforts have caught the attention of the government's newly established Climate Compatible Development Agency (CCDA), which wants to use the mangrove project to trade in blue carbon credits - credits earned from carbon stored in wetlands like mangrove forests and which can be sold on a carbon market.

"Mangroves store up to 25 times more carbon than tropical forests," says CCDA director John Goedschalk, "So the professor may have unwittingly started a project that can be turned into millions of dollars of income for Suriname."

Low-lying and heavily forested, Suriname counts itself among the five nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and aims to seek funding from international agencies to arm it against the effects of climate change.

Goedschalk, a U.S.-trained economist tasked with helping Suriname acquire the funding it's entitled to, says the country should focus on climate-change adaptation and mitigation measures that also have economic benefits.

“We should move toward climate resilience and low-carbon development, but at the same time take advantage of our access to international climate-change rewards,” he says.

Naipal’s plan to reintroduce Suriname's mangroves, especially since it has an emissions-trading element, “is definitely the kind of project that falls within our scope," says Goedschalk.

“The climate-change funding agencies look for projects that have poverty eradication, employment creation and sustainable tourism elements. Naipal has all of those covered in his."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Blue Carbon in The Bahamas

Island School and Deep Creek Middle School Students Plant Seeds of Hope for the Climate

29 September, 2011 By Caleb Oberst, The Eleutheran

Students Planting Mangrove Propagules

Propagating Awareness One Propagule At a Time

CAPE ELEUTHERA, THE BAHAMAS (29 September, 2011) - On Saturday, September 24th, The Cape Eleuthera Foundation – a non-profit organization dedicated to education and research in sustainability – worked to regenerate the local ecosystem and raise awareness of issues surrounding climate change as part of a global grassroots movement known as Moving Planet. Arranged by the organization, Moving Planet is a worldwide event during which communities across the globe join together to inspire individuals to take action and promote solutions to the climate crisis.

In honor of Moving Planet, The Cape Eleuthera Foundation hosted a day-long event at The Island School for local community members to learn about and plant 350 mangrove propagules on campus. During an educational morning seminar, students learned that the number 350 represents the safe limit of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere and that our current CO2 level is 398. They considered where energy comes from and how global dependence on fossil fuels might be reduced; they were encouraged to think about their power, as global citizens, to speak their minds and stand up for causes that they believe in; and they learned that mangrove trees, which were once abundant on Eleuthera but have been lost in recent decades due to development, play a crucial role in the local ecosystem and in reducing levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

Following the seminar, Island School and Deep Creek Middle School students along with faculty and staff from The Cape Eleuthera Institute got their hands dirty moving rocks, shoveling sand, building walls, digging channels and planting propagules. The event was a huge success and illustrates one of Moving Planet’s core principles: that individuals, when they put their hearts, minds and bodies together, can accomplish more than they’ve imagined. Annabelle Brooks, Research Manager at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, remarked, “It’s pretty incredible how much we got done in just an hour and a half, and this is something we’ve been talking about doing for years.” The Moving Planet mangrove project is intended to become an ongoing study and monitoring project on the topic of mangrove restoration on Eleuthera. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but as one student observed, “it doesn’t have to be huge to be meaningful.” Slowly, one propagule at a time, we are striving to build a better future for our planet, and hope we’ve inspired others to do the same.

Red Mangrove Propagules Ready For Planting

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Green development in Abu Dhabi

Climate change, green development and coastal ecosystems in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Ecology expert urges green development

Consider environment in planning stages, Razan says

By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter, Published: August 26, 2011

The eastern mangroves cover a 1.2-kilometre stretch in Abu Dhabi. The emissions of greenhouse gases in Abu Dhabi is currently amongst the highest in the world.

Abu Dhabi: The pace of development is the major challenge to the efforts for environmental conservation in Abu Dhabi, according to the recently appointed Secretary General of Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi.

"Economic development is progressing much faster than our understanding of their impact on the environment, which can lead to very costly solutions and measures," Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

It is critical that the environment is being considered at the planning stage and not just as an afterthought, she said.

Razan said Abu Dhabi is blessed with amazing biodiversity and natural resources. However, with the population predicted to more than double between now and 2030, there will be increased demand for land to build on as well as energy, water, food and other products, she said.

"As Abu Dhabi continues to develop, it is critical that we have a strong and effective environmental regulatory framework, with a clear strategy focused on tackling the big issues in partnership with government, non-government organisations, academia and the private sector.

"This will help ensure that economic growth provides the desired benefits without damaging Abu Dhabi's natural heritage and long-term future prospects. Only in this way can we achieve a prosperous society in a sustainable environment," Razan said.

The availability of water is a particular and urgent concern, she said. "Currently around 65 per cent of all the water we use is supplied from groundwater, the remainder being provided by desalination and recycled water. But in our arid environment groundwater renews itself slowly, causing the supply to diminish."

A growing population means a future need for increased water supplies, and as groundwater levels diminish more reliance will be placed on energy-and carbon-intensive desalination processes, the official said.

The per capita consumption of goods and emissions of greenhouse gases in Abu Dhabi is currently amongst the highest in the world. Abu Dhabi will need to look to both policy changes and changes in individual habits to reduce this consumption and these emissions to acceptable levels, she said.

To meet the growing demand, much of the raw materials will have to be imported, increasing the environmental impacts associated with sea and land transport. Carbon dioxide and other gaseous emissions are also likely to increase, both from the manufacturing processes and the transport of raw materials and end produce. Volumes of waste and hazardous waste will increase, requiring effective and safe treatment or storage, Razan said.

Expressing her concerns about climate change, she said possible increase in sea levels due to global warming will put further pressure on vulnerable areas such as the coastal zone which is already under pressure from development. In Abu Dhabi, mangrove forests and sea grass in these areas will suffer as a result of rise in sea levels and water temperatures, the official said.

Adapted native plants

"We have 450-500 terrestrial plant species, many of which have uniquely adapted to conditions of high temperatures, high salt levels and low rainfall," Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak said. "This is also true for the desert animals which have adaptive strategies to help them survive in the harsh desert environment."

However, temperatures are now increasing at a rate not seen historically which may lead to instability in these finely balanced ecosystems making them increasingly vulnerable, she said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wetland Restoration in CA and Blue Carbon

Restoration project in San Diego CA restores 630 acres of tidal saltwater wetlands - while also restoring natural Blue Carbon function

Located in southern San Francisco Bay, the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is an ambitious effort to return more than 15,000 acres of salt flats to a natural state - as tidal saltwater wetlands. On Tuesday 630 acres were inundated. The project is the largest tidal wetland restoration effort on the West Coast, with a current total of 3,000 acres of former salt flats in the process of restoration.

The project's goal is to replicate that hand of Mother Nature - this includes bringing back natural ecosystem services such as:

• The re-establishment of fish habitat, providing support for recreational and commercial fisheries;

• The enhancing of local biodiversity, providing opportunities for wildlife related tourism activities such as bird watching;

• Improved water quality through natural sediment control;

• Adaptation for climate change through natural protection from sea-level rise; and

• The restoration of the role this wetland plays in storing carbon, thereby helping to mitigate climate change.

South Bay salt ponds before and after restoration. In just a year, native pickleweed colonizes the mudflats. Photo: South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

Oldest Bay Area salt flat turned into wetland

Wednesday, September 14, 2011, Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle

With the crunch of a bulldozer Tuesday afternoon, the oldest salt flat in the Bay Area became the region's newest wetland.

Amid cheers from dozens of biologists and state Fish and Game workers, a construction crew ripped through an old levee just south of the San Mateo Bridge, allowing water from Old Alameda Creek to flow into the bone-dry moonscape of a salt flat for the first time since the 1850s. Eventually a levee to the west of that flat will be breached to reconnect the 630 acres to San Francisco Bay.

"These salt ponds took away the lungs of the Bay. Today we're giving them back," said Carl Wilcox, manager of the Bay-Delta region for the California Department of Fish and Game.

Water and mud slopped into the barren whiteness that stretches over more than 1 square mile in the shoreline area known as Eden Landing. Biologists expect fish and birds to start investigating the new habitat immediately and full restoration to be complete in a decade.

Tuesday's levee breach was the first salt-flat restoration in the East Bay. It is part of the 15,000-acre South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, the largest wetland restoration program on the Pacific Coast, which has so far been concentrated on the salt ponds around Alviso.
Nature does the work

With the Hayward addition, more than 3,000 acres around the bay have been restored. The remaining 12,000 are still in the planning process, which includes digging ditches where channels once flowed and building new levees to protect shoreline development from flooding.

But otherwise, the tides do all the work.

"We just set the table and let Mother Nature do the rest," said John Bourgeois, director of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. "Once you let the tides in, the sediment comes in, bringing the seeds, and the whole process will be set in motion."

Salt flats have been a fixture of the shoreline at least since the Gold Rush. Ohlone Indians harvested salt along the waterfront, but then commercial outfits such as Leslie and later Cargill took over. In the late 1990s Cargill sold most of its Bay Area salt ponds to the state and federal governments for wetland restoration.

What biologists discovered, though, was that over the decades some species had grown to like the salt ponds. Threatened snowy plovers, for example, nest on the salt flats because they're similar to their usual nesting spots, beaches, but with fewer dogs and people. So the project calls for the preservation of some salt ponds, although with reduced salinity, said John Krause, Fish and Game biologist.
Economic impacts

Restoring wetlands isn't just beneficial for the environment, it has an economic impact as well, Wilcox said.

Wetlands improve water quality and provide sediment control and protection from sea-level rise, Wilcox said.

In addition, they're likely to draw more people to the shoreline to enjoy the scenery.

Wetland restoration is not inexpensive, however. Acquiring the 15,000 acres cost $100 million, and the planning and levee breaches cost millions more. The parcel opened Tuesday cost more than $4 million to restore.

"I grew up in Oakland, and to see this restored is incredible," said Austin Payne, an engineer for Ducks Unlimited, which worked with the state on the Hayward restoration. "For my kids, all these areas will be open to them."

Additional articles:

And now for some good news, Legal Planet Blog, February 6, 2011

Restoration Project Changes Look Of SD Bay, 10 News (including video)

Bay salt pond restoration reaches milestone tomorrow, KQED

Levee breach bringing new life to Hayward shoreline, Contra Costa Times

Levee breach marks key step in wetlands restoration, East Bay News