Friday, April 15, 2011

World Atlas of Mangroves: A Book Review

World Atlas of Mangroves: A Book Review

By: Gabriel Thoumi, April 14, 2011

Because recent research has shown that it is often the case that mangroves store more carbon than tropical forests--from 90 tons to 588 tons carbon from above-ground and below-ground biomass combined with net primary productivity of 7 to 25 tons carbon annually (1)--while providing an estimated ecosystem services value of up to US$ 9270 per hectare per year (2), the timely publication of the World Atlas of Mangroves is an excellent reference for those of us working to protect mangroves globally. With information sourced from 1400 literature references, the atlas gives the reader the information they need so as to further understand mangrove ecosystems, and the opportunities to develop mangrove ecosystem conservation and carbon projects.

This easy-to-use atlas includes global and regional maps demonstrating mangrove species richness, location, and conservation strategies, including carbon sequestration quantities for all 73 species of mangroves. These maps also represent visually protected areas overlaid with the existing mangrove estate. Finally, each regional section contains excellent analysis on regional mangrove issues including a measured discussion of the impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on villages that had protected their mangroves compared with villages that had not protected their mangroves.

The atlas further provides momentum to protecting our global mangrove estate given the recent announcement that Restore America's Estuaries is developing a mangrove carbon methodology, in conjunction with Verified Carbon Standard. This proposed carbon accounting methodology is focusing on quantifying and crediting the greenhouse gas benefits of several types of wetlands conservation projects including mangroves and coastal and tidal wetlands.

In fact, in a recent report by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and wetland specialists ESA PWA, "Of the 15 coastal deltas studied for the report, seven were found to have released more than 500 million tons of CO2 each since the wetlands were drained, mostly in the past 100 years. By comparison, Mexico's carbon dioxide emissions for 2007 were just over 470 million tonnes." This type of ecosystem loss has led NASA to announce a large grant to study wetlands loss in Bangladesh and for the Government of Guyana to award $100 million Guyanese dollars to Guyana’s Mangrove Restoration Project.

With the global mangrove estate in 123 countries impacting fisheries, biodiversity and species conservation, coastal zone development and protection, and climate change mitigation, it is important that our conservation community work with our business community and indigenous and local communities to develop equitable opportunities for carbon and conservation finance funds to protect our global mangrove estate that we depend on daily. Because the greatest threat to mangroves is arising from conversion and land clearing for aquaculture and agriculture ( food production and palm oil food production and palm oil), and land conversion to urban uses (growth of cities), it is clear that in the 21st century, the destruction of our Earth’s mangroves could potentially complicate global food security while impacting sustainable growth of our urban areas. This furthermore strengthens our needed resolve to today begin to develop carbon projects on mangroves properties so that we can mitigate climate change while developing sustainable coastal zone management policies in the 21st century.

How to order
By Mark Spalding, Mami Kainuma, and Lorna Collins
Hardcover: 319 Pages, $99.95
Publisher: Earthscan Publications
June 2010

(1) Komiyama, A., J.E. Ong & S. Poungparn, 2008. Allometry, biomass and productivity of mangrove forests: a review. Aquatic Botany 89(2): 128-137.

(2) In the front line. Shoreline protection and other ecosystem services from mangroves and coral reefs. UNEP-WCMC Biodiversity Series 24 (Volume 2006) - Wells, S., Ravilious, C., Corcoran, E., UNEP-WCMC

Gabriel Thoumi, Project Developer, Forest Carbon Offsets LLC, provides forest carbon project development and sustainable finance consulting integrating both the carbon and capital markets. He has consulted on 20 forest carbon projects globally applying multiple forest carbon standards and methodologies, and he frequently lectures and publishes on the same topics globally.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New evidence on coastal wetlands as carbon sinks

New evidence on coastal wetlands as carbon sinks

Submitted by Marea E. Hatziolos on Mon, 04/11/2011 - 09:38

In the corridors of COP 16 in Cancun last December, `blue carbon’ was being discussed in the context of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The notion that wetlands and near-shore marine habitats constitute significant but largely unaccounted for natural sinks of atmospheric CO2 was just beginning to surface. Since then, there has been a surge in interest in Coastal Carbon Sinks, as evidence begins to mount on their ability to suck up CO2 and store it in their biomass and in deep sub-surface soil layers. A recently published study in Nature GeoScience cites evidence from field measurements that mangroves in Indonesia can actually store carbon at four times the rate of their terrestrial forest counterparts.

In contrast to terrestrial forests, mangroves and other wetlands store most of the carbon below ground, in a rich organic soil layer, which can run several meters deep. When this soil layer is disturbed—as happens when wetlands are drained or converted for other land use—huge amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2, and centuries or millennia of accumulated carbon can be emitted over the course of a few decades.

The extent of these emissions in estuaries and deltas, is highlighted in a detailed World Bank technical report. The preliminary findings of the report were summarized for decision-makers in a brief issued last December at the COP 16. The technical report, Mitigating Climate Change through Restoration and Management of Coastal Wetlands and Near-shore Marine Ecosystems: Challenges and Opportunities, is available on line and is being launched today in Indonesia at a Workshop on Tropical Wetland Ecosystems of Indonesia,in Bali.

The report estimates that, within the major deltas and estuaries subject to drainage which were reviewed for this study, many have experienced losses of close to 1 billion tons of CO2 (more than twice the annual emissions of Mexico), since large-scale alterations to their hydrology first began about 100 years ago. Mega emitters include the Mekong delta in Vietnam, the Wash-Humber delta in the UK, the Changjiang delta in China, and the Sacramento – San Joaquin delta in the U.S. While the horse is already out of the barn for these heavily populated and developed coastal scapes, it is not too late to restore portions of these vital carbon stores (see for example, the work of Restore America’s Estuaries), and to prevent other deltas as well as remaining stands of mangrove forests from going down the same path.

But time is running out. As this and other reports warn, coastal wetlands are being lost at an alarming rate—and the pressure is greatest in the tropics. Coastal wetlands are succumbing to urbanization, agriculture, aquaculture, and to impacts from climate change. It is not clear whether mangroves can keep pace with sea level rise, where hardened coastlines block their landward retreat.

This race against time, however, is fueling some good basic science and economic analysis on how to translate the carbon sequestration services of coastal wetlands and nearshore marine environments into revenue streams, creating incentives for local governments and communities to protect them. Geochemists and ecologists are struggling to wrap their heads around the complex physics and chemistry of carbon flux to come up with the metrics required for Monitoring, Verification and Reporting (MRV) of carbon emissions reduction. Economists are already calculating the value of these services on the Voluntary Carbon Market, with potential links to trade under an expanded REDD+ market

In the World Bank, we are beginning to explore alternative livelihood opportunities related to mangrove conservation and rehabilitation linked to REDD+ in coastal communities in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, where mangrove forests are the richest, and most under threat. National programs for community-based coastal resources management are likely to offer the best opportunities for piloting and scaling up such an approach. The next phase of COREMAP (The Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program in Indonesia), which is expected to focus on capturing value from coastal ecosystem services, may just be the place to start.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Green Payments for Blue Carbon

It seems that every few weeks we learn more about importance of Blue Carbon ecosystems as carbon sinks.

Two recent publications by the World Bank and Duke University are especially noteworthy to the policy and market spheres of Blue Carbon:

Mitigating Climate Change through Restoration and Management of Coastal Wetlands and Near-shore Marine Ecosystems Challenges and Opportunities (S Crooks, D Herr, J Tamelander, D Laffoley, & J Vandever, March 2011)

Green Payments for Blue Carbon: Economic Incentives for Protecting Threatened Coastal Habitats (B C Murray, L Pendleton, WA Jenkins, & S Sifleet, April 2011)

Important take-home messages from the reports include:

  • Avoiding carbon emissions from the loss of Blue Carbon ecosystems (avoided loss) could be one of the major values for potential market application.
  • Sustainable management of Blue Carbon ecosystems also offers a wide range of co-benefits, including shoreline protection, water quality maintenance, the preservation of biodiversity, food security, and economic benefits associated with fisheries and tourism.
  • Carbon emissions (from ecosystem loss) and sequestration associated with Blue Carbon ecosystems are currently neither accounted for in national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, nor do incentives for restoration or disincentives to drain or damage these systems exist in international policy frameworks is that amounts of carbon.
  • Coordinated action/initiatives are recommended in advancing Blue Carbon in the international and national climate change policy processes. Targets include national GHG inventories, expanding UNFCCC reporting requirements, and IPCC guidance and guidelines, with opportunities both in the developed and developing worlds.

Hats off to the Blue Carbon Portal for beating us to this story, I just had to re-post. -Steven

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blue Carbon Highlighted in the Western Indian Ocean Region

Blue Carbon was on the agenda at “Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region: Solutions to the Crisis”, a regional climate change conference held in Balaclava, Mauritius, March 21 - 23 2011. The conference was organized by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI); the Nairobi Convention Secretariat, and Commission de l'océan Indien (COI).

Attendees included experts, stakeholders, and policy makers on climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation in the region.

A Consensus Statement was released which calls attention to the important impacts and issues surrounding climate change in the region. The importance of Blue Carbon ecosystems in adaptation and mitigation was highlighted, relevant excerpted text follows:

We, senior experts from the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region,…

Aware of the positive contributions that oceans and coastal areas play in the mitigation of global warming through the environmental services they provide including their role as natural carbon sinks and in regulating climate and temperature;

We, the participants hereby recommend the following:

I. Adaptation

1. Recognition that for the WIO region adaptation remains the top priority for tackling the impacts of climate change and variability, we therefore call for the WIO countries and their partners to prioritize the following interventions:-

(e) Encourage the use of natural carbon sinks in coastal areas such as mangroves, sea grass beds, and coastal wetlands by including these ecosystems in the emission and climate mitigation protocols;

II. Mitigation

2. We encourage WIO countries to take the opportunities provided by climate change to initiate policies that address poverty reduction and mitigation actions and in this regard, the countries should prioritize the following interventions:

f) Rehabilitate critical coastal habitats and their components including coastal forest and seagrass habitats;

g) Enhance the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through forests by developing and implementing national and regional blue Carbon and REDD–plus programs and strategies with a trans-boundary focus as appropriate.

The full statement can be found at (recommended reading):

A link to the conference web site, which includes lots of interesting material and PPT presentations:

And a related news article (translated from French with Google Translate):

Climate Change: A common strategy adopted by the countries of the western Indian Ocean

Béatrice Hope, 03/26/11

Mauritius hosted this week, many experts who study climate change at a regional conference on the subject. The participants developed a common strategy, based on best practices and recommendations made during the conference.

The regional conference on climate change adaptation in the countries of the western Indian Ocean, which took place this week at the Intercontinental Hotel at Balaclava, has a stimulating discussion on the issue. The objective of this conference is to provide countries of the western Indian Ocean and strategically useful and accurate information that would help them in adapting to climate change.

The participants shared their knowledge, experience and solutions to coping strategies and possible mitigation. At the end of the conference, they have developed a regional strategy on this.

The recommendations relate to two strategies: adaptation and mitigation of climate change and its effects. The integration of disaster reduction and risk management programs in national and regional development and strengthening of economic and social resistance are recommended for adaptation. It was also concluded that the need to conduct awareness campaigns is important and urgent to prepare the authorities but also the population, especially in coastal areas. It is also necessary that adequate funding, perhaps through a Coastal Adaptation Fund be allocated to support coastal communities - because they are most vulnerable to climate change.

Regarding mitigation, the recommendations are in short, less polluting means of transport, development of clean and renewable energy, sustainable practices in agriculture, building more eco-friendly and reduce greenhouse gas emissions emissions.

To recap, at the opening of the conference, Monday, March 21 Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Deva Virahsawmy, recalled how the Indian Ocean region is prone to risks due to climate change. "The western Indian Ocean is most affected by climate change, although this region contributes the least to greenhouse gas emissions ... The increasing pressures posed by the demographic and boost the impacts of climate change seriously jeopardize the marine ecosystem and coastal region. Climate change may jeopardize the economic gains gained by the countries of the western Indian Ocean," he said.

The Department of Environment and Sustainable Development has, therefore, created a unit dedicated to the fight against climate change. And the government has launched the Maurice Ile Durable.

The conference was organized by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) with the collaboration of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI). It brought together about 200 participants. They come from Mauritius, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Kenya, Canada, Nigeria and France. They come from regional institutions, NGOs, business communities, governments and other development partners, they are professionals in the field of climate change.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mangroves go trade-able

Mangroves go trade-able: New CDM methodology for afforestation and reforestation of tidal forests

Written (for Blue Carbon Blog) by: Zbigniew J. Grabowski, Director of Community and Ecology,

A project put together by the Danone Fund for Nature, the IUCN, the Ramsar Convention and Oceanium, a Senegalese NGO is the first of its kind to submit for accreditation under the Clean Development Mechanism. The project design document and monitoring methodology are open for comment until February 22, 2011. The project aims to deliver significant conservation and sustainable development co-benefits by restoring mangrove habitats providing habitat for economically important biodiversity and improving the local and regional environment.

The project focuses on reforestation of areas identified to be suitable by a variety of mangrove species. The proposed methodology (coded as ARNM0038) combines a number of pre-existing CDM methods for afforestation and reforestation (A/R) of degraded land (AR-ACM001, AR-ACM0002), land under agricultural use (AR-AM004), shrub supported A/R on degraded land (AR-AM0006), and includes the simplified baseline and monitoring methodology for small scale CDM A/R project activities implemented on wetlands (AR-AMS0003).

Included in the methodology are carbon pools of above and below ground biomass, dead wood, litter and soil organic carbon.

If approved, similar mangrove restoration projects would be able to produce Certified Emissions Reductions (CER) carbon credits which can be used by Kyoto signatories to meet their emissions reduction targets. CERs are currently traded by Annex 1 countries, and a 2% levy on CERs issued by the CDM fund the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund.

View the draft Project Design Document (PDD) here.

View the draft methodology here.

Comments can be submitted online at:

See the news blurb from Ecosystem Marketplace in their 17th of February news bulletin here:

Information on CDM and JI markets from Ecosystem Marketplace here:


In follow-up, see the following:

The Danone Fund for Nature (at the Ramsar Convention Convention on Wetlands web page):

Achieving Carbon Offsets through Mangroves and Other Wetlands, Meeting Report, Expert Workshop, November 2009, 92 pp:

The Wetland Carbon Partnership (IUCN, Ramsar and Danone)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Carbon-rich mangroves ripe for conservation

Carbon-rich mangroves ripe for conservation

Failing to preserve mangrove forests could cause sizeable carbon emissions

Janelle Weaver / Published online 3 April 2011 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2011.205

Until now, the amount of carbon locked up in mangrove forests was largely unknown (Dan Donato).

Mangrove forests in tropical regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans store more carbon than previously recognized, according to a study published today in Nature Geoscience1. The findings indicate that much of the carbon in such forests is found in the surrounding soil, which is rich in organic material. Cutting down mangrove forests, which occupy less than 1% of tropical forest area, could therefore contribute up to 10% of global carbon emissions from deforestation.

Although carbon reserves in other types of tropical wetland forest have been assessed, the amount of carbon in mangroves has been largely ignored, even though they are present in more than 100 countries. For example, it is estimated that clearing of tropical peatlands, which also contain carbon-rich soils, produces about a quarter of all deforestation emissions. The extent of mangrove forests has declined by as much as 50% over the past half century because of development, over-harvesting and aquaculture, so estimating their carbon reserves will be important for future strategies to reduce climate change.

To estimate the abundance of carbon in mangroves, lead investigator J. Boone Kauffman, an ecologist at the Northern Research Station of the US Forest Service in Durham, New Hampshire, and his team sampled 25 mangrove sites across a broad territory that included Micronesia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. This area spans 30 degrees of latitude and 73 degrees of longitude and represents about 40% of the global area covered by these trees.

Sludge stores

Kauffman and his team assessed above-ground and below-ground carbon pools in mangrove sites occupying estuaries and oceanic settings, such as island coasts. They found that these forests hold much more carbon than do boreal, temperate or tropical upland forests — especially in an organic-rich 'muck layer' of soil more than 30 centimetres below the surface.

The team found that this underground layer is thicker in mangrove forests in estuaries than in those near the ocean, accounting for more than 70% of total carbon stores in estuarine mangroves and upwards of 50% in those in oceanic zones.

By combining their findings with global data, the researchers predict that worldwide carbon reserves in mangrove forests may be as high as 25% of those in tropical peatlands, and at the current rate of annual clearance, emissions from mangrove destruction could reach 40% of those from the clearing of peatlands.

Branching out

"This paper represents an important step forward in quantifying and understanding the significant pool of carbon in mangrove ecosystems," says Shimon Anisfeld, an expert in coastal ecology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

However, the numbers still only represent rough estimates, owing to a lack of information about geographic variation in soil depth, the relative area of mangrove forests in estuaries compared with those near oceans, and the effect of land-use changes on carbon release from soils. They may even be overestimates, because "the authors seem to have sampled some of the largest, most robust stands around," says Thomas Smith, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey in St Petersburg, Florida.

Still, the study could have a substantial impact on conservation efforts around the world, says Gail Chmura, an expert in coastal ecosystems at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. "Hopefully, it will help arguments to extend REDD+ to mangroves," she says, referring to an international plan to pay developing countries to preserve forests in a bid to help reduce global carbon emissions.

Robert Jackson, an ecologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, agrees with Chmura, adding: "Mangrove forests are important for diversity, for coastal stability and for carbon, based on this paper. It gives another justification for preserving mangrove forests."

1. Donato, D. C. et al. Nature Geoscience advance online publication doi:10.1038/ngeo1123 (2011).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mangroves: Save the ‘carbon sinks’ instead of letting them go down the drain, say experts

Mangroves: Save the ‘carbon sinks’ instead of letting them go down the drain, say experts

By Samia Saleem, Published: March 31, 2011

Schematic diagram of the rooting systems of the two major types of mangrove. IMAGE: ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

KARACHI: Mangroves can serve as lungs for Karachi, where the scope of forestry is already very limited, said experts.

Around the world, environmentalists are now focusing on the role of mangroves as carbon sinks besides their ecological usefulness, natural beauty, ability to filter pollution, house fish nurseries and buffer shorelines against storms.

International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) climate change expert Saadullah Ayaz said that studies have shown that about one acre of mangrove plantations roughly capture 0.7 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Mangroves can thus be used as tools to control the environment and the population. Also, unlike terrestrial vegetation, they don’t cover very large areas, he said.

Studies show that mangroves, salt marshes and sea grasses soak up to five times more carbon than tropical forests. An article published this month in the ‘American Scientific’ calls mangroves as ‘blue carbon’. These previously undervalued coastal carbon sinks are beginning to gain attention from conservation communities because of their littoral environment that is close to the shore, said the article.

Ayaz said that although climate change is a global phenomenon in which Pakistan has a much smaller contribution in comparison, mangroves can still hold enormous amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from factories in the city. Pakistan’s contribution to global climate change is about 0.4 to 0.8 per cent of global emissions versus the largest contributor, the United States, which releases 24 to 27 per cent of the total emissions, according to a task force report on climate change 2010 by the Planning Commission of Pakistan.

In an industrial city, such as Karachi, where both combustion and breathing — the two major contributors to carbon dioxide emissions — are in high density and the scope of forestry and plantations is low, these plants can serve as mitigating agents of pollution, said Ayaz.

IUCN expert on mangroves Tahir Qureshi said that the vast coastal jungles of mangroves on our coastline in Sindh and Balochistan can also be used to improve the forest wealth of Pakistan. According to him, Pakistan is already on the list of the countries that don’t have enough forests and wildlife. “These coastal plants not only contribute to marine diversity and ecosystems but also attract land biodiversity,” he said. Just like trees on land, mangrove forests can help rejuvinate the ecosystem, catalysing the ecological balance and increasing the flora and fauna.

“These spindly shrubs that thrive on the interface between land and sea, attract birds, animals and insects, their wood can be used for timber, the leaves for animal fodder, and they can hold soil, preventing soil erosion,” he said.

According to the Pakistan climate change report, the forest cover for Pakistan is expected to increase from 4.9 per cent of the total land area in 2005 to 5.2 per cent in 2010 and six per cent by 2015.

Since mangroves hold so much carbon, destroying mangroves also releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide gas, which is why protecting the coastal habitat of mangroves is all the more important. “Our resources are being wrecked through aquaculture, agriculture, timber extraction and real estate development,” said Qureshi.

Mangrove forests that spanned over 600,000 hectares till 1950 have shrunk to 86,000 hectares now, which is a major concern, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2011.