Monday, May 23, 2011

Mangroves to the rescue

Mangroves to the rescue

Island in Krabi becomes part of an innovative project aimed at alleviating climate change

Published: 23/05/2011 at 12:00 AM, Bangkok Post

Krabi has long been a popular tourist destination, but now the southern province is becoming known for something more creative - using its low-profile islands in a carbon capture and storage project.

Prof Dr Sanit Aksornkoae (left), a director and acting president of the Thailand Environment Institute, plants mangrove seedlings with Kantanit Sukontasap, vicepresident for group communications at Siam City Cement, a business partner of the project.

Located just a few kilometres from Krabi town, Koh Klang, with fewer than 5,000 people, was recently selected by the Thailand Business Council for Sustainable Development (TBCSD) to be turned into a "carbon capture and storage island", part of moves to turn Thailand into a low-carbon economy.

Through partnerships between business organisations, local communities and the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), the "Blue Carbon Storage" project involves planting and rehabilitating 3,000 rai of mangrove area or "walking forests" for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Prof Dr Sanit Aksornkoae, a director and acting president of the TEI, said it would take three years to develop the entire programme including six months to measure existing carbon dioxide levels and estimate how much can be reduced on the island.

"Blue carbon storage is similar to green carbon storage, which involves land forests, except higher amounts of CO2 are stored," he said.

Given Thailand's 2,700 km of coastline, some 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) could be stored annually in coastal forests compared with 40 million a year for green or land forests.

For example, seagrass can store 1,130 kilogrammes per rai per year, while seaweed is good for more than 2,000 kg per rai per year.

Thailand's more than 200 varieties of coral reefs can manage 1,800 kg of GHGs per year, with plankton storing about 1,500 kg.

By comparison, Prof Dr Sanit said land forests can generally capture 1,300 kg of GHGs per rai per year.

Thailand's mangrove area has declined from 2.3 million rai to 1.5 million in recent years, with more than 400 sq km eroded.

Most of this forest area stretches along the Gulf of Thailand, on which the country's coastline runs for 1,900 km compared with only 800 km for the Andaman coast.

"Ineffective and improper use of natural resources have resulted in continuous declines in mangrove forest area and aquatic animals," said Qwanruedee Chotichanathawewong, a TBCSD executive director and TEI vice-president.

"The loss of mangrove forest means Thailand is losing lots of carbon storage area, thereby contributing to accelerated climate change."

For an agricultural country such as Thailand, climate change can mean lower crop yields due to higher temperatures, increased drought and reduced biodiversity.

The TEI says Thailand emits 359 million tonnes of GHGs annually, mostly from the energy sector.

Other partners in the project include the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and Siam City Cement Plc along with Islanda Eco Village Resort, the only participating resort on Koh Klang and which educates local people and tourists alike about the project.

Pimrapee Phanwichatikul, who opened Islanda almost three years ago, said the resort will eventually distribute mangrove seedlings to tourists so they can participate in planting the seedlings on the island.

"We need help from academics and researchers regarding care of the seedlings, while resort staff can coordinate with the villages," said Ms Pimrapee, who is also the vice-president for sales and marketing at the Maritime Park and Spa Resort in the province.

"Koh Klang villagers can earn extra income by planting and taking care of the seedlings."

She said that by limiting tourist numbers, Koh Klang can prevent the garbage problems experienced by other resort islands in the country.

Seagrasses face extinction threat

Seagrasses, iconic and important blue carbon ecosystem, face extinction -

Seagrasses face extinction threat

By Matt Walker Editor, BBC Nature News, 23 May 2011

A manatee grazes on seagrass (image: Hoslo Jiwa)

Seagrasses around the world are disappearing, with some species now threatened with extinction.

The first global survey of individual seagrass species has found that 14% are at risk of going extinct.

"I was surprised by the level of threat to many species of seagrass”

Frederick Short Research Professor and Director of SeagrassNet

More common species are also in decline, meaning both seagrass habitat and diversity is being lost.

Seagrasses provide food and habitat for a variety of ocean species including manatees, sea turtles and fish such as sea horses.

Seagrasses are flowering plants that grow on the ocean floor.

They form vast meadows that flower and seed underwater, having evolved from land-based plants that entered the water millions of years ago.

Seagrasses alone form important marine habitats.

They act as nurseries for young fish and shellfish, and are the primary food for large marine mammals such as manatees and dugongs, as well as reptiles such as some sea turtles.

They also contribute to the health of coral reefs and mangroves, salt marshes and oyster reefs.

> 26 of the 72 species of seagrass are declining in number, with 13 increasing. The rest are stable or unknown.

> Seagrasses provide food for dugongs and manatees, animals said to be the basis for the mermaid myths.

It has been known for a while that seagrasses are declining in many parts of the world.

The reasons are many, seagrass expert Frederick Short told the BBC.

Professor Short, of the University of Hampshire in Durham, US is the director of SeagrassNet, an international seagrass monitoring program with 114 sites around the world.

For example, seagrasses are gone from the most developed coastlines due to pollution, said Professor Short.

Seagrasses are in decline in the developing world due to sedimentation, caused by runoff from impacted watersheds and deforestation, and being overloaded with nutrients flowing into the sea from sewage and agricultural runoff.

Seagrasses are also being directly damaged by the dredging of seafloors.

Seagrass is home to a Malagasy cowfish Seagrass is home to a Malagasy cowfish

"But there has never been a review of individual species status," said Professor Short.

So he and an international team of experts convened three workshops to gather all the knowledge about individual seagrasses, and used it to evaluate how at risk each species is. The workshops were hosted by Conservation International, the Global Marine Species Assessment programme and SeagrassNet.

The results are published in the journal Biological Conservation.

"I was surprised by the level of threat to many species of seagrass and to discover that seagrass biodiversity is under greater threat than I believed," he said.

Of the 72 species, his team found that 15 seagrasses should be considered Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened, under criteria laid down by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Of those, ten face a significant risk of extinction.

Phyllospadix japonicus is an important habitat-forming grass along the rocky shorelines of China, North and South Korea and Japan. But it has gone from swathes of China's coastline, due to seaweed aquaculture.

Zostera chilensis is known from only two locations on the coast of Chile, and seems to have already disappeared from one.

Of the 57 remaining species, 48 are considered of Least Concern, while sufficient data doesn't exist to make a judgement on the others.

"Many widespread, common seagrass species which are not presently threatened are nonetheless in decline, so we have both an overall loss of habitat and a loss of biodiversity," said Professor Short.

"Seagrasses are both direct food for important species and as they break down within the coastal ecosystem, they are part of a vast food web that provides food to many organisms within the coastal ocean, including many commercially and recreationally important species.

Green turtles swimming over seagrass Green turtles depend on the green grass

"Unfortunately, being submerged in the ocean they are rarely directly seen except by swimmers or snorkelers."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fish andTransfer of Carbon to the Deep Ocean

Researchers using sediment traps in the Southern Ocean have included fish fecal material in measurements of carbon flux to the deep ocean. Fish feces was found in three out of four sediment trap deployments. The study focused on the sinking flux of particulate matter (carbon) associated with free-drifting icebergs.

Fish feces included as marine carbon – "fecal material from euphausiids (brown cylindrical shape) and fish (large reddish pellet)", from Smith et al 2011.


Smith, K. L. Jr., et al., Carbon export associated with free drifting icebergs in the Southern Ocean. Deep-Sea Research II (2011), doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.11.027