Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blue Carbon Photos - Mangroves

Some images of mangrove forests, a key blue carbon ecosystem...

Mangrove forest in Bali

 Photo by Steven Lutz 

Mangroves are not only important for carbon sequestration but also for the many species who thrive in mangrove forests

Photo by Christian Perthen, RUI LLC (US Virgin Islands)

Pollution is a major threat towards mangrove forests

Photo by Steven Lutz (Bali) 

Mangrove degradation in Honduras

 Photo by Scott Duncan (Guanaja Mangrove Restoration Project)

Mangrove nursery in Abu Dhabi

Photo by Steven Lutz

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stockholm Environment Institute supports Blue Carbon

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) supports Blue Carbon -

Research findings from a study led by marine experts at the Stockholm Environment Institute suggests that measures to cut and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions must be taken in order to reduce the potential costs of climate change damages to the world’s oceans.

The Institute recognizes Blue Carbon as one possible solution, stating that “a new potential market in “Blue Carbon” could also present an important economic opportunity."

"Marine ecosystems, like mangroves and sea grasses, contain far more carbon than terrestrial forests but are being degraded at a more alarming rate and are not yet included in carbon offset schemes, which reward investors in emissions reduction projects in developing countries with carbon credits."

"There are many questions about the legal responsibility for different parts of the ocean. Tracking terrestrial carbon offsets is enough of a challenge, tracking the marine ones is going to be a new challenge, but they need to be included. Leaving out an area like that could undermine progress being made in areas that are being taken care of," stated Frank Ackerman, senior economist and director of the Climate Economics Group at SEI.

20 March 2012/by Nina Chestney/Reuters

Damage to world's oceans 'to reach $2 trillion a year

LONDON- The cost of damage to the world's oceans from climate change could reach $2 trillion a year by 2100 if measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions are not stepped up, a study by marine experts said on Wednesday.

The study found that without action to limit rising greenhouse gas emissions, the global average temperature could rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century causing ocean acidification, sea level rise, marine pollution, species migration and more intense tropical cyclones. It would also threaten coral reefs, disrupt fisheries and deplete fish stocks.

In the study, "Valuing the Ocean", marine experts led by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) analysed the most severe threats facing the world's marine environment and estimated the cost of damage from global warming.

It found nitrogen-rich fertilisers and waste would strip more ocean areas of oxygen, causing what is known as hypoxic dead zones, which are already found in more than 500 locations.

"By 2100, the cost of damage if we do not radically cut emissions rises to $1.98 trillion, or 0.37 percent of global gross domestic product," the SEI said.

The loss of tourism would incur the highest cost at $639 billion per year. The loss of the ocean carbon sink, the seas' ability to soak up carbon dioxide (CO2), would cost almost $458 billion, the study showed. Warmer water holds less CO2.


If cuts in emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases were carried out more urgently and temperature increases were limited to 2.2 degrees C, nearly $1.4 trillion of the total cost could be avoided, the study found.

However, such progress would require the widespread use of radical carbon removal technologies like sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, Frank Ackerman, one of the report's authors told Reuters.

"The faster we stop emissions rising, the lower the damage will be. But on current technology, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up on a 4 degree C pathway," said Ackerman, senior economist and director of the Climate Economics Group at SEI's U.S. Center.

The study did not put a monetary value on the loss of some species which inhabit the world's oceans, critical processes like nutrient cycling or the loss of coastal communities' traditional ways of life.

"The challenge is to figure out what parts of the ocean environment have a value you can put a meaningful price on. There are very important areas which we still can't incorporate into a market," Ackerman said.

The study also recommended that the United Nations appoints a High Commissioner for Oceans to coordinate research and action, that ocean services should be more integrated into economic policy and that there should be more preparation for a 1-2 metre sea level rise by the end of the century.

A new potential market in "blue carbon" could also present an important economic opportunity, SEI said.

Marine ecosystems, like mangroves and sea grasses, contain far more carbon than terrestrial forests but are being degraded at a more alarming rate and are not yet included in carbon offset schemes, which reward investors in emissions reduction projects in developing countries with carbon credits.

"There are many questions about the legal responsibility for different parts of the ocean. Tracking terrestrial carbon offsets is enough of a challenge, tracking the marine ones is going to be a new challenge," Ackerman said.

"But they need to be included. Leaving out an area like that could undermine progress being made in areas that are being taken care of."
Read the SEI report:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oceans on the Agenda

More followup to the Economist World Oceans Summit

In the following article Peter Seligmann, CEO of Conservation International (CI), draws attention to the increasing and justified concern for the health of our oceans. While noting the importance of oceans and its role in generating oxygen, providing essential nutrition and generating jobs, he also addresses the significant role of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass and saltmarshes in absorbing and storing carbon. 

March 2012 / by Peter Seligmann / The Huffington Post 

A Sea Change in Ocean Conservation

In my 36 years of work in conservation, I have never before witnessed as much attention and concern being paid to the deteriorating health of our oceans, and the resulting consequences of that deterioration for people everywhere. Ocean issues have grown from being a concern of environmental organizations to an urgent topic in corporate boardrooms and the offices of heads of state -- an important shift in attitude that gives me reason for hope.

From the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos in January to The Economist's World Oceans Summit I attended last month in Singapore, the concerns are palpable. With the world's population expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050 -- doubling the demand for food, energy and water -- corporations and governments are looking to the oceans for answers.

Oceans generate more than half of the oxygen we breathe, provide essential nutrition to over 1 billion people and generate hundreds of millions of jobs through tourism, fisheries and aquaculture. Coastal ecosystems like mangroves and coral reefs protect our coastlines from the devastating impacts of storms and tsunamis. Mangroves, seagrass beds and salt marshes are amongst the most efficient ecosystems at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere -- and release more carbon than other ecosystems when they are destroyed.

Marine conservation is not just critical for the health of our oceans; it's an issue of food security, economic security and national security. Corporations and governments are beginning to realize that sustainable supply chains and economic growth are only possible if we conserve the natural capital and ecosystems which underpin all human endeavors.

Only a few years ago, The Economist would never have hosted a summit on oceans for the corporate, government, academic and non-governmental sectors to come together to identify shared solutions for ocean health. In Singapore, I spoke with the CEO of Maersk Line, North Asia, the global leader in shipping; the president of Kiribati; the secretary of environment and natural resources of the Philippines; and the World Bank president. All of them share our deep concern about the health of the oceans.

Another example of the growing realization of the central role of oceans in ensuring human well-being and survival was the announcement by World Bank President Robert Zoellick of an ambitious Global Partnership for Oceans. Conservation International (CI) has been closely involved in the development of this partnership, and I welcome the World Bank's leadership in defining clear targets and setting a short-term goal of raising $300 million in funding that is meant to leverage an additional $1.2 billion in order to recover fish stocks, expand marine protected areas, stimulate sustainable aquaculture, resolve pollution problems and adapt to climate change. Meeting these targets will mean more stable fisheries, more jobs and greater national security for countries around the world.

Institutions like the World Bank have been at the forefront of global development issues for a long time; this announcement by President Zoellick shows that the Bank is recognizing the importance of sustainable use and conservation of oceans and coastal ecosystems to its core mission of poverty alleviation. Now we need to move from lofty rhetoric and aspirational commitments to real action and measurable results. This will require even greater leadership.

The most promising direction to look for such leadership is to turn toward the Pacific Islands. President Anote Tong of Kiribati, a long-term partner of CI, spoke eloquently in Singapore about the actions taken by Kiribati to establish the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and demonstrate that healthy sustainable economies based on restoring ocean health are possible.

President Tong also highlighted the Pacific Oceanscape, the largest ocean management initiative ever conceived, which is bringing together 16 countries and six territories to collaborate on marine conservation. President Tong told me he is surprised by the high level political momentum generated already by the Pacific Oceanscape. This should be the first region for the Global Partnership for Oceans to focus its efforts.

In my entire career, I have never been involved in anything at this scale. The Pacific Oceanscape leaders -- President Tong, Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands and others -- are not saying they will give up economic growth, but they do want to manage their resources in a way that sustains culture and ecosystems. This is the beacon on the hill -- the outlook we need to do what must be done. The time for oceans has come.

Need for Blue Carbon at Rio+20

Blue Carbon highlighted in a new report published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) -

"Protocols for the Measurement, Monitoring and Reporting of Structure, Biomass, and Carbon Stocks in Mangrove Forests" provides valuable information on how to monitor, measure and report mangrove structure, biomass and carbon stocks but also highlights the alarming rate of loss of mangrove forests face.

The authors note the importance of Blue Carbon ecosystems such as mangrove forests, seagrass and saltmarshes, the critical threats that they face, and the need to include them in "impending discussion within the Rio+20 summit."

Mangroves are currently not mentioned in the Rio+20's zero draft. 

Mangroves being destroyed at “an alarming rate” yet not mentioned in Rio+20’s zero draft

March 2012/by Andrea Booth/Forest Blog

Mangrove shoots on the beach in Pejarakan Village, Indonesia.  Photo by Aulia Erlangga for CIFOR

BOGOR, Indonesia (14 March, 2012) - “Oceans” will be one of the key issues under discussion at Rio+20 with the aim to ensure sustainable ocean development and the protection of marine resources, yet mangroves – whose carbon sequestering ability and raft of ocean ecosystem services are being lost at an “alarming rate”  –  are not mentioned at all in the summit’s zero draft agenda.

“With the loss of mangroves, we would lose many important ecosystem services. The impact on local communities and adjacent ecosystems would be catastrophic,” said Boone Kauffman, scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research and lead author of CIFOR’s recent publication: Protocols for the measurement, monitoring and reporting of structure, biomass and carbon stocks in mangrove forests.

“Given their unique values and the dramatic threats to their continued existence both due to climate change as well as ongoing degradation, there is an urgent need for governments at Rio+20 to acknowledge the importance of mangroves and develop better policies to ensure their protection.”

Back in the laboratory, CIFOR researchers are analysing the carbon in thousands of mangrove soil samples from across South-East Asia and Latin America. The methods they are developing to measure carbon will inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) revision of guidelines for greenhouse gas inventories in wetlands – a crucial development to better include mangroves and other valuable wetlands in carbon financing programs such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

“Mangroves store up to three to four times more carbon than most tropical forests,” said Kauffman.

“We have developed accurate and efficient methodologies to quantify carbon stocks because of the potential importance of mangroves not only in international climate change treaties such as REDD+, but also for sustainable development such as the impending discussion within the Rio+20 summit.”

Asia supports the world’s largest mangrove areas, originally extending more than 6.8 million hectares and representing 34– 42 percent of the world’s total. Indonesia holds almost 23 percent of the world’s mangroves followed by Africa at 20 percent, North and Central America, 15 percent, Oceania, 12 percent, and South America at 11 percent.

Mangroves, as well as tidal marshes and sea-grass meadows, remove carbon from the atmosphere and lock it into the soil, where it can stay for millennia. Unlike terrestrial forests, these marine ecosystems are continuously building carbon pools, storing huge amounts of “blue carbon” in their organic-rich sediments.

When mangroves are degraded due to drainage or conversion for agriculture or aquaculture, they emit large and continuous amounts of greenhouses gases to the atmosphere. Rates of mangrove deforestation and conversion to other land use types are among the highest of all tropical forests with land conversion contributing to the loss of 35 percent of the world’s mangroves between 1980 and 2000.

“Mangroves are being destroyed at an alarming rate and this needs to stop,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, CIFOR Senior Scientist. “There is a lack of awareness of the full implications of mangrove loss for humankind.”

Kauffman believes surveys that quantify forest composition, carbon pools and the large emissions that result from mangrove conversion will provide valuable information in the efforts to protect mangroves.

“This information could be used to preserve mangroves’ vital ecosystem services, such as providing local communities with livelihoods related to fish and shell fish resources, wood and non-timber forest products, ecotourism, sources of biodiversity, and important sources of nutrients and energy for adjacent coral reefs as well as protecting coastal zones  from natural disasters, and functioning as remarkably large carbon sinks.”

Such surveys will certainly be required to monitor carbon stocks of mangroves to enable participation in regulated climate change mitigation and carbon market activities such as REDD+. This publication addresses these needs specific for mangrove ecosystems.

“Given the differences of composition, ecology and structure of mangroves compared to upland forest types, this manual was necessary to compose,” Kauffman added.

REDD+ helps to reduce global greenhouse gases by compensating countries for avoiding deforestation or forest degradation. Its broader framework, however, could provide compensation for aspects such as forest enhancement and carbon stocks.

Managing coastal ecosystems for the range of services they provide can complement existing approaches to nature-based solutions to reduce the effects of climate change. Such investments have the potential to link to REDD+ and other carbon financing mechanisms, provided that protocols on accounting, verification and reporting of net carbon uptake can be agreed.

The carbon measurement methods employed by the scientists correlate with Tier 3, the highest of the IPCC’s Tier system, which reflects the degrees of accuracy of carbon stock assessment for REDD+ program participation.

Tier 1 uses simplified assumptions and can have an error range of approximately 50 percent for aboveground pools and plus or minus 90 percent for the variable soil carbon pool. Tier 2 requires country-specific carbon data for key factors. Tier 3 requires highly specific inventory data on carbon stocks in varied carbon pools, and repeated measuring of key carbon stocks over time.

Kauffman and co-author Daniel Donato developed a five-step measurement plan to determine accurate results. The first step is to define the project boundaries. Second, divide mangroves into categories according to their type such as coastal fringe, estuarine, or dwarf mangrove. When quantifying carbon stocks it is also necessary to partition mangroves into aboveground and belowground components, which provide more insight into carbon levels and allow for better quantification of emissions or sequestration of carbon.

Finally the frequency of sampling is important. Measuring within five-year intervals may be required to claim carbon market credit.

Rapid 21st century sea level rise and increased storm surges have been cited as a primary threat to mangroves, which have persisted in climates with more gradual sea-level changes by migrating landward or upward. Under current climate trends, the sea level is projected to rise as high as 1 to 1.5m by the end of this this century – and even higher if ice-sheet melting continues accelerating.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mangrove conservation in Madagascar

Potential Blue Carbon and related ecosystem services project -

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has awarded Blue Ventures the Darwin grant for its work with the mangroves of Madagascar. The grant will help the organization further its efforts and projects with coastal communities to conserve the mangroves.

Dr. Garth Cripps, senior conservation scientist with Blue Ventures, stated that the project's approach will help "overcome the significant policy uncertainty for REDD+, as well as the delay of several years before eventual carbon incomes flow, to bring communities more immediate benefits derived from local, internal markets."

March 2012 / by Blue Ventures

Leveraging markets to conserve mangrove biodiversity and alleviate poverty in Madagascar

The UK Government’s environment department, DEFRA, today announced a generous grant for the conservation of critical mangrove forests Madagascar, as part of its Darwin Initiative for overseas biodiversity conservation.

This new project will expand Blue Ventures’ work with coastal communities in western Madagascar to develop innovative new approaches to mangrove conservation and coastal poverty alleviation.

As a result of the project, it is hoped that coastal communities in this impoverished region will be able to earn new income from the sale of carbon credits, enhanced productivity of crab and shrimp fisheries, and the sustainable supply of charcoal and timber.

Blue Ventures will work with the region’s fishing communities to implement effective community-based management of mangroves so that they are able to supply these ecosystems services.  Blue Ventures will also broker the equitable sale of the ecosystem services, guaranteeing that local people are able to improve their livelihoods.

  Local communities harvesting crab and shrimp from the mangroves

Madagascar’s mangrove forests are extremely valuable ecosystems, not only for the exceptional biodiversity that they support, but also for the host of ecosystem services and goods that they provide, many of which are critical to the well-being of coastal people. Over half of Madagascar’s population lives on the coast and mangroves play an important role in the well-being of many of these people, be they urban or rural. Yet, for the very reason that they provide so many valuable products, these mangroves are increasingly deforested and degraded.

“Diversifying cash income away from just fishing and forest exploitation will help to eradicate deep poverty in these communities.  In addition the project will help communities to gain legal land and user rights to their mangroves – at present, these mangroves are open access. If coastal fishing communities are to be able to cope with climate change, there is an urgent need to sustainably manage the mangrove forest resources on an ecologically meaningful scale in the region. This project will make an important step towards achieving this goal.”

- Lalao Aigrette, Blue Ventures' Coastal Research Manager

A key objective of the three-year project is to develop a simple model that can be easily implemented by other communities throughout Madagascar.  A key innovation of the project is the way it combines different mangrove ecosystem services to develop several income streams for community participants.  Dr. Garth Cripps, senior conservation scientist with Blue Ventures in Antananarivo, says: ”this approach enables the project to overcome the significant policy uncertainty for REDD+, as well as the delay of several years before eventual carbon incomes flow, to bring communities more immediate benefits derived from local, internal markets.”

“Until now, Madagascar’s extensive mangroves have received very little conservation attention, despite being amongst the largest in the Indian Ocean, and critical to coastal livelihoods and biodiversity”, says Dr. Al Harris, Research Director of Blue Ventures.  To date most forest conservation efforts have focused on the humid eastern forests of Madagascar.  “Thanks to the generous support of the Darwin Initiative, we can now begin to give these exceptionally productive habitats the attention they deserve.”

The extensive mangroves of the western coast support several critically endangered species, including the Madagascar Fish Eagle, the Madagascar Teal and possibly the last populations of two species of sawfish in the Western Indian Ocean. These mangroves are also fundamental to the health of the extensive coral reefs that occur along the west coast. By contributing to the preservation of this significant biodiversity, the project will help Madagascar to fulfill the principal objectives of the convention on biological diversity.

 The mangroves are hugely important for the local community

Learn more about Blue Ventures’ Blue Forests and Coastal Communities initiative:

Read the latest notes from the field from Dr. Trevor Jones, remote sensing scientist with BV’s Blue Forests research team  in Madagascar here:

Read the Darwin Initiative’s press release: