Sunday, June 19, 2011

Update 2: Blue Carbon & SBSTA 34 (Bonn, Germany)

Frederica Bietta, Papua New Guinea (right) intervenes on their proposed agenda item blue carbon

Further discussions on blue carbon at SBSTA 34, Bonn Germany. From the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) report for Thursday, June 16, at SBSTA 34:

On the SBSTA side, the issue of blue carbon played out on center stage. While the majority of parties supported considering related issues under existing SBSTA agenda items, Bolivia and Venezuela opposed this, voicing concerns that market mechanisms will not offer the nature adequate protection. Some observers also shared concern over turning “blue carbon into another REDD+.” One delegate characterized blue carbon as an example of why interlinkages between the Rio Conventions should be reinforced.

Delegates waiting for the SBSTA plenary to resume after 10 pm were entertained by chanting interpreters claiming that “there is no body like the SBSTA, the body of substance.” Some also composed cheerleading refrains on blue carbon. “Give me a B....give me an L…,” they shouted in jest. On the SBI side, one insider tried to reassure tired observers waiting for the outcome of late-night informal consultations: “Give us time, we are trying to do good things here.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blue Carbon Policy Options Assessment

Blue Carbon Policy Options Assessment

As part of an effort to promote the inclusion of the blue carbon concept in key climate-policy frameworks, Linden Trust commissioned Climate Focus to review and evaluate the various policy options available for blue carbon. The report, released on June 15, 2011, and titled 'Blue Carbon - Policy Options Assessment,' aims to help the blue carbon community in understanding and prioritizing policy options.

The report’s Priority Recommendations follow:

A number of opportunities exist to promote blue carbon as a legitimate climate change activity. However, promoting blue carbon as a new and separate agenda item under the UNFCCC in the same way as REDD+ was developed is unlikely to succeed. The current UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol negotiations are already overloaded and adding yet another item to the list may be counterproductive in the short term – especially before IPCC reporting guidelines have been developed and improved and the impact of blue carbon is better understood. Any advocacy within the UNFCCC should therefore be focused on improving IPCC guidelines and integrating blue carbon into the existing NAMA and REDD+ agendas. The following are therefore our recommended “High Priority” actions for the next 18 months.

1. Develop and improve IPCC reporting guidelines where they do not adequately cover blue carbon sinks and reservoirs carbon sinks and reservoirs carbon sinks and reservoirs carbon sinks and reservoirs. A lack of confidence in the quantification of net climate benefits of blue carbon is a barrier to finance and incentive mechanisms including carbon markets. A priority should therefore be to support scientific research without delay to better quantify emissions and removals from changes to blue carbon sinks and reservoirs, such as salt marshes and mangroves, and with a particular focus on sea grasses which currently fall outside IPCC guidelines. The IPCC has proposed a process to produce supplemental guidance on these ecosystems by 2013.

2. Ensure NAMAs include actions that address blue carbon. For some countries, blue carbon may be a significant mitigation opportunity. NAMAs offer a potential source of financing while methodologies for carbon measurement are being developed and improved. NAMAs should focus on a combination of “readiness” and demonstration activities for sea grasses, salt marshes, and non-forest mangroves. Mangroves considered forests can be included within REDD+ action. Readiness activities would focus on increasing a country’s understanding of emissions and removals from blue carbon sinks and reservoirs and their drivers of emissions, and what is needed to address them. Implementation should focus on demonstration activities to protect or restore blue carbon ecosystems, and may extend to an effort to access performance-based finance such as sectoral crediting or other mechanisms. It should be possible to work with at least two or three countries to develop and submit blue carbon NAMAs for funding within 18 months. Priority could be given to working with Nigeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, India, Mozambique, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines on readiness, and with Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Malaysia on implementation.

3. Utilize REDD+, which has more developed policy structures and could include mangroves that meet the definition of a forest that meet the definition of a forest that meet the definition of a forest that meet the definition of a forest. Analysis and education is needed amongst developing countries to help them understand the implications that different forest definitions have on the inclusion of mangroves within REDD+. This should be capable of completion within a matter of months. Support is also needed for countries to gain a better understanding of the implications that mangrove forests may have on forest reference levels and reference emission levels developed by developing countries through 2011 and 2012 (as needed).

4. Leverage the multiple benefits of blue carbon to access financing. Protecting and restoring blue carbon sinks and reservoirs can have multiple benefits for climate change mitigation and adaptation, along with additional co-benefits such as biodiversity conservation. The ability to check a number of donor priorities or funding commitments within a single activity will increase the likelihood of accessing public funding from developed countries. A recommended short term priority is to access fast start finance to support the above activities. Accessing this funding should be possible within 18 months.

Click here for the full report: Blue Carbon Policy Options Assessment

Mangrove Conservation & Restoration - Central to Climate Challenge Mitigation

Mangrove Conservation & Restoration - Central to Climate Challenge Mitigation
by Alfredo Quarto, Executive Director & Cofounder of Mangrove Action Project

Mangrove forest in  Bangladesh.

We at Mangrove Action Project have been working for almost 20 years to promote the ecological value of mangrove forest wetlands. It has been an uphill battle to counter the negative image of the once mislabeled "muddy, mosquito infested wastelands." Governments finally began recognizing their importance and passed laws to protect the mangroves, but these laws were rarely enforced, so more and more mangroves were lost to shrimp farms, tourist development, golf courses, oil exploitation, urban and agricultural expansion and a multitude of other unsustainable, short-sighted development pressures. The rampant turning of millions of hectares of valuable wetlands to wastelands has had and is having tragic, long-term consequences.

Mangrove forests are vital for healthy coastal ecosystems in many regions of the world. They support an immense variety of sea life in intricate food webs associated directly with mangroves themselves. They are refuge for juvenile fish, crabs, shrimp and mollusks. Mangroves are also prime nesting and feeding sites for hundreds of migratory bird species. Additionally manatees, crab eating monkeys, Royal Bengal tigers, fishing cats, migratory birds, sea turtles and Mud Skippers utilize and depend upon mangrove wetlands.

More recently, it has come to the attention of mangrove ecologists that healthy mangrove forests play an important role in carbon sequestration—these unique ecosystems and corresponding wetlands account for nearly a third of the world’s terrestrial carbon stores (Ramsar Secretariat 2002). Dr. Ong Jin Eong of Malaysia has in his extensive research found that mangroves sequester 50 times more carbon in their soils than terrestrial tropical forests. Dr. Ong was one of the first to postulate that mangroves are key links in combating climate change.

Intact mangroves also protect coral reefs and sea grass beds from landward siltation and pollution runoff, while forming a natural coastal protection shield against floods, storms or other natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Mitch of 1998. Beyond these irreplaceable ecosystem services, mangroves provide important socio-economic benefits to coastal communities, providing bountiful seafood, fruits, fuel wood, shelter, medicines and tannins.

Pond with mangrove stumps.

In spite of those important functions, more than 50% of the global mangrove forests have been destroyed over the last 100 years, most of this loss occurring in the last 30 years, mainly caused by human development. In addition, mangroves are vulnerable to negative effects caused by climate change such as rising sea levels, higher temperatures and natural disasters. Conservation and restoration programs in those areas degraded or ruined by unsustainable development are urgently needed. Because mangroves play such an important role in sequestering carbon, this approach will contribute to climate change mitigation through avoided destruction and restoration of ecosystems. The improvement of mangrove ecosystems will also enhance its function as a natural water treatment system and spawning grounds for fish, improving health and fishing possibilities, further benefiting marginalized local communities.

However, very few organisations so far have dealt effectively with mangrove restoration and relatively few experiences exist on successful, long-term mangrove rehabilitation. These failures in effective mangrove restoration are worrisome in the light of the millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours spent at the task, not to mention the millions of mangrove seedlings unsuccessfully planted all in neat rows in the wrong places with the wrong species and at the wrong time.

Failures are bound to happen, partly because adaptation to climate change and increased disaster risk through utilization of natural vegetative protection shields such as mangroves is a relatively new concept, relying on ecosystem services instead of engineering technologies and hard infrastructures to reduce the severity of disasters. Nevertheless, we need to be more proactive in learning from these obvious failures, and not repeat them ourselves or encourage others to do the same. In light of the continuation of these “traditional” methods of hand planting mangrove propagules or seedlings, it seems most restoration practitioners are reluctant to implement changes in their overall strategy involving restoration.

MAP has responding to this apparent impasse by promoting a more innovative approach that we believe is both more cost effective and successful in restoring mangrove wetlands by paying special attention to coastal hydrology and those disturbances that have caused the problems of mangrove loss in the first place. This technique is called Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR), which was developed over the years by MAP’s chief technical advisor, Robin Lewis, who demonstrated that EMR ensures restoration of more biodiverse, healthy mangrove wetlands. Successful approaches can then be replicated to restore mangroves in other communities, regions or countries.

Demonstrating Ecological Mangrove Restoration at Ban Talae Nok Village located on Thailand's North Andaman Coast in Ranong province.
Ecological Mangrove Restoration Defined

Ecological Mangrove Restoration has been defined as “the process of repairing damage caused by humans to the diversity and dynamics of indigenous ecosystems” (Jackson et al. 1995) Ecological Mangrove Restoration is a holistic approach to mangrove restoration that also includes a view of the proposed plant and animal community to be restored as part of a larger ecosystem with other ecological communities that also have functions to be protected or restored. EMR aims at the restoration of certain ecosystem traits and the replication of natural functions. It has been reported that mangrove forests around the world can self-repair or successfully undergo secondary succession over periods of 15-30 years if: 1) the normal tidal hydrology is not disrupted and 2) the availability of waterborne seeds or seedlings (propagules) of mangroves from adjacent stands is not disrupted or blocked (Watson 1928, Lewis 1982, Cintron-Molero 1992).

Because mangrove forests may recover without active restoration efforts, it has been recommended that restoration planning should first look at the potential existence of stresses such as blocked tidal inundation that might prevent secondary succession from occurring, and plan on removing that stress before attempting restoration (Hamilton and Snedaker 1985, Cintron-Molero 1992). The second step is to determine by observation if natural seedling recruitment is occurring once the stress has been removed. Only if natural recovery is not occurring should the third step of considering assisting natural recovery through planting be considered.

Unfortunately, many mangrove restoration projects move immediately into hand planting of mangrove seedlings without determining why natural recovery has not occurred. There may even be a large capital investment in growing mangrove seedlings in a nursery before stress factors are assessed. This too often results in major failures of planting efforts.

Planting mangrove propagules.

Six Steps To Successful Mangrove Forest Restoration

In collaboration with communities, organizations and local government, MAP will work to:
  1. Understand both the individual species and the community ecology of the naturally occurring mangrove species at the site, paying particular attention to patterns of reproduction, distribution, and successful seedling establishment.
  2. Understand the normal hydrology that controls the distribution and successful establishment and growth of targeted mangrove species.
  3. Assess the modifications of the mangrove environment that occurred and that currently prevent natural secondary succession.
  4. Select appropriate restoration areas through application of Steps 1-3, above, that are both likely to succeed in rehabilitating a forest ecosystem and are cost effective. Consider the available labor to carry out the projects, including adequate monitoring of their progress towards meeting quantitative goals established prior to restoration. This step includes resolving land ownership/use issues necessary for ensuring long-term access to and conservation of the site.
  5. Design the restoration program at appropriate sites selected in Step 4, above, to restore the appropriate hydrology and utilize natural volunteer mangrove recruitment for natural plant establishment.
  6. Utilize actual planting of propagules or seedlings only after determining through Steps 1-5, above, that natural recruitment will not provide the quantity of successfully established seedlings, rate of stabilization, or rate of growth as required for project success.
Today, MAP is working with local communities and partnering with grassroots NGOs to conserve and restore mangroves, promoting the Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR) approach as the most effective, long-term approach to mangrove restoration. We are trying to discourage the popular but ineffective way of hand planting mangrove seedlings or propagules, usually with one species- the red mangrove or rhizophora- that is still the most popular approach, which unfortunately is establishing low-biodiversity monocultures or plantations, instead of healthy, biodiverse mangrove wetlands.

MAP is currently seeking support for our innovative and collaborative Ecological Mangrove Restoration and Training (EMR) workshops and follow-up restoration and monitoring program. This program is slated to take place in both Latin America and Asia over a three to five year timeframe and will train and engage mangrove forest communities in restoring and managing coastal mangrove forest ecosystems for the long-term benefits of the participant communities. Our first EMR Training Workshop is slated for July 6, 2011 in Jiquilisaco Bay in El Salvador. Jiquilisco is part of the “Mangrove Corridor” which runs along the coastlines of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. So the potential outreach from the workshop in El Salvador could reach much further along this entire Corridor.

Ban Talae Nok's Ecological Mangrove Restoration team.

Involving the Local Community

To involve the communities from the start of the project is vital to the program’s success. The community will need to develop a management plan to deal with the cause(s) of mangrove destruction in the first place. The destruction could be due to over exploitation for fuel wood, illegal cutting and/or development encroachment such as shrimp farming, grazing by livestock or other conflicting uses. Often it will take time to develop and implement a workable solution, while other times a viable strategy may not be found, which will prevent moving ahead with mangrove restoration plans. Once the management plan is successfully being implemented, mangrove restoration can move forward in parallel.

Next, the EMR approach will be introduced to local community members interested in serving as future monitors and resource managers at the sites selected. This presentation could be quite effective in encouraging the local community to get involved, which is one of our main points of interest to help build the capacity of local communities to better manage and conserve their natural resource base. Strong community stewardship will ensure a central stakeholder role in future mangrove management decision-making processes. A program of monitoring and evaluation of restored sites by local community members is built into the EMR process with a 3-5 year monitoring plan to ensure success of the endeavor.

Towards Reversing the Losses

We must first address the need to halt further losses of our marine coastal wetland areas. Their intrinsic value is constantly increasing from what we once naively assumed. All of our past economic valuations have fallen far short of the reality, mainly because of lack of knowledge as to the amazing ecosystems we have for too long taken for granted. Those muddy swamps are possibly now our ultimate remedy to the planetary sickness caused by rampant human folly.
Now is the time to take these issues forward the planned for a discussing climate change in what could be a last attempt to curb our civilization's penchant for unlimited and unreasonable growth.

Web Sites and Literature Cited

Lewis, RR. III. 2005. Ecological engineering for successful management and restoration of mangrove forests. Ecological Engineering 24(4 SI): 403-418. (Available at in both English and Spanish)
Lewis, RR. III. 2009. Methods and criteria for successful mangrove forest restoration. Chapter 28., pages 787-800 in GME Perillo, E Wolanski, DR Cahoon, and MM Brinson (eds.)
Coastal Wetlands: An Integrated Ecosystem Approach. Elsevier Press.
Lewis, RR, B. Brown, A. Quarto, J. Enright, E. Corets, J. Primavera, T Ravishankar, O Stanley and R Djamaluddin. 2006. Five steps to successful ecological restoration of mangroves. Mangrove Action Project/Yayasan Akar Rumput Laut. Yogyakarta, Indonesia. 64 p.
Ramsar Secretariat (2002): Climate change and wetlands: impacts, adaptation and mitigation. COP8, Information Paper DOC 11.
Samson, MS., and RN Rollon. 2008. Growth performance of planted mangroves in the Philippines: revisiting forest management strategies. Ambio 37:234-240.
UNEP/GRID-Arendal/ Food and Agriculture Organization/UNESCO, Blue Carbon: the role of healthy oceans in binding carbon- a Rapid Response Assessment report compiled, 2010


For the Future with Mangroves,

Mangrove Action Project
PO Box 1854
Port Angeles, WA 98362-0279
USA (360) 452-5866

Guest blog (including images) by Mangroves for the Future (many thanks Alfredo!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Update: Blue Carbon & SBSTA 34 (Bonn, Germany)

Blue Carbon discussed at UN Climate Change Discussions - SBSTA 34, Bonn Germany

Blue carbon was discussed again on Friday, June 10, at the 34th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 34).

According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) report, SBSTA Facilitator Ould-Dada noted that a number of parties were of the view that blue carbon was not mature enough and that related issues, such as mangroves, could be addressed under REDD+ (see ENB, Vol 12 No 507 - 11 June 2011).

Discussions will continue…

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Words of Caution for Blue Carbon on World Oceans Day

To mark World Oceans Day, the United Nations hosted a panel discussion at its Headquarters in New York. The theme of the discussion was “Our oceans: greening our future.”

One of the panelists was had some comments that can be taken as some of the first words of caution for blue carbon. During her presentation titled “Oceans and the social impact,” Ms. Chandrika Sharma, speaking on behalf of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), noted the need to ensure human rights and access to local ecosystems when pursuing a carbon market approach for oceans and mangroves:

“I think what we are bit worried about, the whole thing of the green economy, is the whole issue of valuation of nature, commodification of nature.

The kind of payments for ecosystem services, where you can actually buy carbon credits in another ecosystem, say in the oceans, or in mangrove ecosystems, where the whole ecosystem becomes just something which is for carbon sequestration.

It doesn’t remain an ecosystem that is used by people, and who people have been using for centuries, and people have a right to control and manage.

So to the extent that such unregulated marketing of ecosystems undermines peoples control over their ecosystems, I think we need to be very cautious about.

I think we have already had experiences with REDD+ schemes where indigenous people feel that they have lost control over the forests and the ecosystems that supported them, and has negative implications for human rights.”

Something to keep in mind as blue carbon progresses...

The entire panel discussion can be found at the United Nations Webcast site:

(comments related to blue carbon can be found from 20: 07 to 21:10)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blue Carbon Introduced into UN Climate Change Discussions

On Monday, June 6, blue carbon was introduced into official climate change discussions of the United Nations. Blue carbon was discussed on Monday and Wednesday at the 34th session of Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), in Bonn, Germany (6-17 June 2011). The SBSTA is an important climate change meeting as it provides the Conference of the Parties (COP) with advice on scientific, technological and methodological matters (e.g., it helps to set the agenda for the next international climate change meeting - COP17, to be held in Durban South Africa, 28 Nov - 9 Dec, 2011)

According to the record of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) report from Monday, Papua New Guinea (PNG) introduced the issue of blue carbon on the agenda of the SBSTA, under the heading “On blue carbon: coastal marine systems.” PNG explained that the topic would include consideration of wetlands and coastal ecosystems (as carbon sinks). The US supported blue carbon’s inclusion. However, Brazil noted that blue carbon might not be mature enough for consideration (see ENB, Vol 12 No 503 - 7 June 2011).

On Wednesday, during input on research needs and priorities, “Papua New Guinea discussed the role of blue carbon within the SBSTA, saying that the science on mangrove and salt marsh sinks is robust enough for policy consideration. Noting that mangroves are already included under REDD+, she [speaker for PNG] emphasized the need to monitor the human impact and carbon sequestration potential of other ecosystems. Papua New Guinea also proposed holding a workshop on blue carbon at SBSTA 36” (ENB, Vol 12 No 505 - 9 June 2011).

These discussions represent the first time that blue carbon has been officially discussed by States at an UN climate change conference.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mangroves to receive huge boost from new carbon credit rules

Mangroves to receive huge boost from new carbon credit rules

06 June 2011 | News story

A new method for calculating the role that mangrove restoration plays in slowing climate change, by capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, has been adopted.

The methodology is adopted under the UN climate change convention’s Kyoto Protocol, as part of the Clean Development Mechanism that supports emission reduction projects in developing countries. .

This will provide a significant boost to restoration efforts for mangrove forests, which grow in tropical and sub-tropical coastal regions and provide a wide range of biological services such as nurseries for juvenile fish and a source of timber for local populations.

“The fact that this new methodology is now part of the Clean Development Mechanism should allow us to achieve similar results for other types of coastal and marine ecosystems,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. “Adopting new policies and financing mechanisms for protection and management of our oceans should be at the heart of nature-based solutions to climate change.”

Only recently has the important role of mangroves in trapping carbon from the atmosphere and locking it into sediments begun to be recognised. Many scientists believe that mangroves are far more efficient at trapping carbon than tropical and temperate forests, whose role as climate regulators has been recognised and established longer.

The methodology was developed by IUCN, Ramsar and Sylvestrum for the Clean Development Mechanism and was based on field experiences from a 3-year partnership with Danone. The project was initiated by food and water company Danone and its brand Evian in partnership with IUCN and Ramsar, which implemented large mangrove restoration initiatives together with local communities in Africa and Asia..

“The new methodology will open up opportunities for mangrove restoration on a far greater scale,” enthuses Bernard Giraud, Danone Vice President of Sustainability. “It will have a very significant impact on local communities and will stimulate companies to make corporate-level investment and grasp new carbon offsetting opportunities in coastal regions.”

Mangrove forests are just one of several coastal ecosystems that play an important role in regulating climate and are commonly referred to as “blue carbon” solutions. Others include salt marshes, seagrasses, kelp forests and wetlands.

Many mangroves become degraded through the upstream building of dams, roads and irrigation channels. The methodology also recognises the importance of automatic regeneration of mangroves, which can be achieved through changes to the upstream hydrology or “re-wetting.”

“Destruction of coastal habitats releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroys livelihoods,” says Prof Nicholas Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “Well-planned and implemented restoration and protection of these ecosystems delivers very tangible benefits to local populations in tropical countries, and increases the ecosystems’ capacity to store carbon.”