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

Blue Carbon Webinar

Blue Carbon - Another Reason to Love Coastal Habitats

Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 12:00-1:00 PM US EST

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For remote access via webinar, please fill out the registration form a few minutes before the meeting is scheduled to begin. The Meeting Number is 742656968; the Passcode is brownbag. For audio in the US and Canada, dial 866-833-7307. The participant passcode is 8986360.

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Emily Pidgeon, Conservation International and Linwood Pendleton, NOAA and Duke University

Did you know that coastal habitats such as mangroves, salt marshes, and sea grasses store significant amounts of carbon and have great potential for greenhouse gas mitigation? Dazzle your colleagues and friends with your newfound knowledge of international and U.S. efforts to better understand and protect the use of these coastal habitats for carbon storage and sequestration.

You’ll learn the answers to questions including:
  • What do we know about how coastal habitats affect global carbon fluxes?
  • How can “blue carbon” help protect coastal habitats?
  • What are some of the hot national and international opportunities related to “blue carbon”?
  • What is NOAA’s role with respect to “blue carbon”? How might blue carbon play a role in your office?

Brief notes from webinar:
  • NOAA is excited about Blue Carbon, both on the domestic and international front.
  • There is a dire need for Blue Carbon pilot projects, especially where financial transactions take place. 
  • There is also interest in bundling Blue Carbon with Payments for other Ecosystem Services (PES), but much work needs to be done

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Potential Bundled Blue Carbon / Sea Turtle PES Approach?

    New research illustrates that the conservation of Blue Carbon ecosystems, mangrove forests and not just seagrass meadows, can aid sea turtles (see following BBC article).

    Sea turtles are an iconic and well loved species. A few promising sea turtle Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) plans are being explored, examples include:

    Perhaps there is a potential for a bundled marine PES and Blue Carbon approach? Payments for ecosystems services could combine the following:
    • Payments for sea turtle conservation or financing through related sustainable tourism; and
    • Payments for carbon stored by mangroves and seagrasses.

    'Hidden' hawksbill turtles found

    By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC Nature, 3 September 2011

    The findings could help explain why the species has gone undetected in the region for so long (Hawksbill turtle image by Sterling Zumbrun)

    Scientists have found hawksbill turtles "hiding" in mangrove forests of the eastern Pacific.

    The team, that has been tracking the turtles for three years, also found that the critically endangered animals nested in these estuaries.

    The discovery of this previously unknown sea turtle habitat was published recently in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

    It could explain why the species went undetected in the region for so long.

    Mangrove forests, which are unique coastal tree and shrub habitats, are also under threat. They could represent an important breeding and nesting site for the species, which was thought to depend on coral reefs.

    Hawksbill turtle crawling out to see with a satellite tracker on its back (Image: Alexander Gaos)

    Alexander Gaos, a conservation scientist with San Diego State University and the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative, led the research.

    He and his colleagues tracked hawksbills in four countries - El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Ecuador - using satellite tracking tags glued to the turtles' backs.

    These trackers revealed that adult hawksbill turtles in the eastern Pacific inhabited in-shore mangrove estuaries.

    "For upwards of five decades sea turtle scientists thought hawksbills had [disappeared from] the eastern Pacific Ocean", Dr Gaos told BBC Nature.

    "Despite hundreds of sea turtle projects and scientists focusing efforts in the region, no one had located hawksbills.

    Our findings help explain this… it's hard to spot hawksbills in mangrove estuaries."

    Dr Gaos said that the turtles might be spending their entire lives in these "cryptic habitats".

    "Couple that with the fact that there are very few individuals left - hawksbills in the eastern Pacific are one of the world's most endangered sea turtle populations - and it's no wonder researchers didn't know about them!"

    The scientists worked with local fishermen and even illegal egg collectors, in order to find hawksbill turtles to fit their tags to.

    They hope their revelations about the species' habitat will inform conservation efforts.

    Why the turtles were "seeking shelter" in mangroves was not clear.

    The scientists think it might be a recent adaptation brought on by a lack of their more typical habitat of coral reefs in the region.

    Dr Gaos said: " We now have a better idea of where to look for them, which may help us direct research and conservation of the species, upon which their survival may ultimately depend."


    More information:

    Paying Poseidon: Financing the Protection of Valuable Ecosystem Services (Forest Trends)

    Payments for Ecosystem Services: Getting Started in Marine and Coastal Ecosystems (Forest Trends)