Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mangrove carbon in the Philippines

Multi-sector groups join forces to plant mangroves

(From left) Val de Leon, senior vice president for administration and IT, Nissan Motor Philippines Inc. (NMPI); Dr. Dicky Simorangkir, international senior advisor, GIZ-Biodiversity and Climate Change Project; (standing) Danilo Quidem, barangay captain of Brgy. Quilitisan, Calatagan; Mien Custodio, Batangas municipal environment and natural resources officer; Dr. Sheila Vergara, director for biodiversity information management, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB); and Dr. Filiberto Pollisco Jr.; program development specialist, ACB; led the planting of mangroves for the International Day of Biological Diversity 2012.

The Philippine Star / May 20, 2012

Manila, Philippines -  Some 100 representatives of the business community, media, people’s organizations, local government units, and international organizations trooped to Ang Pulo Mangroves in Calatagan, Batangas on May 15 for a media forum and mangrove planting activity.

The multi-sector event dubbed “Conserve Marine Biodiversity, Conserve Life” forms part of the events organized for the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) 2012 and the National Oceans Month.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), Nissan Motor Philippines Inc. (NMPI), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB), the Batangas Government Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, the Provincial Government of Batangas, the Municipal Government of Calagatan, and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation led the planting of 200 mangrove propagules at Ang Pulo.

Mangroves, known in the Philippines as bakawan, are tropical, salt-tolerant trees or shrubs, often clustered together and can grow up to 25 meters. They are found mainly in marshy areas between the shore and the sea called inter-tidal zones.

“The territory occupied by the Philippines and the rest of the ASEAN member states houses a third of the world’s mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass areas. These ecosystems support the highest concentration of coastal and marine fauna and flora in the planet. An estimated 600 million people in the ASEAN region depend directly on these resources for food and income, which also forms the economic base for the fishing and tourism industries of the region. Thus, it is of great importance that we all contribute to conservation efforts,” Rodrigo U. Fuentes, executive director of ACB, said.

For its part, NMPI believes that as a corporate citizen, it plays an important role to communicate and cooperate actively with the communities. “NMPI has formed various partnerships with international groups, citizen groups and government agencies to effectively promote real-world reductions in environmental impact,” NMPI president and CEO Allen Chen said. “Through this event, we hope to go the extra mile in preserving biodiversity to complement our environment philosophy of achieving a symbiosis of people, vehicles and nature.”

Journalists from Brunei, Philippines and Thailand participated in the media forum at the mangrove site to highlight the importance of conserving marine habitats and species. Experts from the participating organizations briefed media representatives on the status of mangroves and marine biodiversity in the Philippines and the ASEAN region. The impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, as well as actions of people’s organizations to conserve mangroves, was also discussed.

According to Dr. Dicky Simorangkir, international expert of the ACB-GIZ Biodiversity and Climate Change Project, “Mangroves are one of nature’s best ways of combating climate change because of their high capacity for sequestering carbon and their ability to limit the effects of sea level rise and extreme weather events linked to global warming. Conserving and restoration of mangrove areas should therefore be a high priority. We can benefit from the vast wealth of experiences and learning in mangrove conservation and restoration in the Philippines and other countries of the ASEAN and if these activities are continuously supported, we have a better chance of improving the region’s adaptive capacity to climate change.”

“Conserve Marine Biodiversity, Conserve Life” forms part of a series of media forums lined up under the ACB-GIZ Biodiversity and Climate Change Project. “The goal here is to help generate media awareness on the values of mangrove in relation to biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, as well as offer practical actions that can be implemented to contribute to solving the problem of marine life degradation. We recognize that crucial role that they play in bringing the story of biodiversity to millions of people,” Fuentes said.

For more information on the activity, log on to www.aseanbiodiversity.org.

Can ‘Blue Forests’ Mitigate Climate Change?

Manipadma Jena | May 21, 2012 | Yeosu, South Korea 

Fifty-five percent of global atmospheric carbon captured by living organisms happens in the ocean.

Between 50-71 percent of this is captured by the ocean’s vegetated “blue carbon” habitats, which cover less than 0.5 percent of the seabed, according to a 2009 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report entitled ‘Blue Carbon – The role of healthy oceans in binding carbon,’ one of the first documents to demystify the term.

These recent discoveries — of the efficiency of ocean vegetation in mitigating greenhouse gases and ocean ecosystems’ ability to store atmospheric carbon dioxide for millennia — has sent scientists running to probe the potential role of blue forest’s in global efforts to lessen climate change.

An international symposium on the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans, at the Yeosu Expo 2012 being held here from May 12-Aug. 12 under the theme “Living Oceans and Coasts,” brought together scientists and researchers to discuss the carbon management of blue forests.

“Carbon stored and taken out of the atmosphere by coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass and salt marsh is called blue carbon,” explained Nairobi-based Gabriel Grimsditch of the UNEP.

“Blue carbon is important because it allows investment in protection of coastal ecosystems. These ecosystems are important for more than just carbon sequestration and storage — they provide food through fish and protect coastal populations from storms and tsunamis,” he added.

Wendy Watson-Wright, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and assistant director-general of UNESCO, told Inter Press Service, “In order to make good policy we need good science. Not much about blue carbon is known outside the scientific community but it is of crucial importance that its huge benefits be known to policymakers and particularly local communities who take care of and derive their livelihood from this ecosystem.”

In a paper presented at the symposium entitled “Vegetated Coastal Habitats as Intense Carbon Sinks: Understanding and Using Blue Carbon Strategies,” Nuria Marba Bordalba, a scientific researcher at Spain’s Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies, claimed that there is more carbon stored in the soils of vegetated marine habitats than the scientific community had hitherto accounted for.

An important aspect of blue carbon is that most of it is found in the soil beneath the ecosystems, not in the biomass above ground. Carbon can be stored for millennia due to sea level fluctuation, as opposed to terrestrial forests that reach the carbon saturation point earlier.

But there are risks. The flip side to blue carbon is that if these ecosystems are degraded or destroyed, the huge amount of stored carbon — sometimes accumulated over millions of years — is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide due to oxidation of biomass and of the organic soil in which carbon may have been stored.

In fact, some key questions on the table at the symposium were: how vulnerable are coastal carbon sinks to climate change habitat degradation? And, if the habitat is destroyed, how do carbon stocks react?

“The rate of carbon emission is particularly high in the decade immediately after disturbance but continues as long as oxidation occurs,” Grimsditch told IPS.

“When a wetland is drained, carbon is released, first slowly, then [at an] accelerated pace,” said San Francisco-based Stephen Crooks, co-chair of the International Blue Carbon Science Working Group.

“There is now a growing realization that we will not be able to conserve the earth’s biological diversity through the protection of critical areas alone,” said Gail Chmura, associate professor at the Canadian McGill University’s Department of Geography.

The East Asian Seas region of the world has lost 70 percent of its mangrove cover in the last 70 years. A recent publication, “From Ridge to Reef,” by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), warned that if this pattern continues the region will lose all its mangroves by 2030.

This would be a disastrous scenario, since the region’s coast is comprised of six large marine ecosystems and supports the livelihoods of 1.5 billion people.

“On the global scale, mangrove areas are becoming smaller or fragmented and their long-term survival is at great risk. In 1950, mainland China had 50,000 hectares of mangroves. By 2001, it was down to 22,700 hectares — a 50 percent loss,” Guanghui Lin, professor of ecology at the Center for Earth System Science in Beijing’s Tsinghua University, told IPS.

Researchers currently estimate loss of mangroves, seagrass beds and salt marshes at between 0.7 to two percent a year, a decline driven largely by human activities such as conversion, coastal development and over harvesting.

“Ecological restoration is a critical tool for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development,” Chmura stressed.

During the last three decades China has established 34 natural mangrove conservation areas, which account for 80 percent of the total existing mangrove areas on the mainland, according to Lin.

“One of the replicable regeneration policies is a mandatory funding from the real estate sector for mangrove regeneration,” Lin said.

“The cost of seagrass restoration may be fully recovered by the total carbon dioxide captured in 50 years in societies with a carbon tax in place,” Bordalba suggested.

“Seaweed production as a climate change mitigation and adaption measure [also] holds great promise because it will [contribute to] global food, fodder fuel and pharmaceutical requirements,” said Ik Kyo Chung from the oceanography department of the Pusan National University of South Korea.

While acknowledging the considerable uncertainty surrounding estimates and a lack of concrete data, the UNEP report suggests that blue forests sequester between 114 and 328 teragrams of carbon per year.

Luis Valdes, head of Ocean Science at IOC-UNESCO told IPS, “There are two sides to the blue carbon issue, one is the scientific aspect of how much carbon is actually sequestered, technology transfers and so on; the second facet is political — identifying and negotiating with developing countries, collaborating and funding for blue carbon projects.”

“Socialist countries in South America like Venezuela or Cuba are skeptical of blue carbon. They are often opposed to market-based solutions to climate change,” said Grimsditch.

Mexico, Senegal and Bangladesh are already trying out blue carbon sequestration through demonstration projects. Senegal is using mangroves for carbon credits and REDD+, something the UNEP is pushing in other countries’ policies too.

UNEP and GEF with Indonesia have initiated a Blue Forests Project, which seeks to standardize methodologies for carbon accounting and ecosystems valuation.

“We also need to better understand the economics of blue carbon, and whether it is possible to pay for ecosystem management through carbon credits,” said Grimsditch.

Inter Press Service

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blue Carbon at the World Expo 2012

The World Expo 2012 in Yeosu, Korea, last week provided the high-tech venue for a symposium on the effects of climate change on the world's oceans, a gathering of scientists and experts from around the world to discuss the interactions between oceans and climate, two systems intricately linked with each other and with the fate of humanity.
See: http://www.pices.int/meetings/international_symposia/2012/yeosu/scope.aspx.

One of the topics discussed during the symposium was blue carbon, or carbon stored and sequestered in the world's coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass, tidal saltmarshes or macroalgae.

The workshop on ‘Coastal Blue Carbon: Mitigation opportunities and vulnerability to climate change’ was co-organized and co-sponsored by Pusan National University and UNEP. Scientists working in Spain, USA, Canada, China, Indonesia, Kenya and Korea presented their work on carbon storage and sequestration in coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass, tidal saltmarshes and seaweed. The presentations given were:

  • Vegetated coastal habitats as intense carbon sinks: Understanding and using Blue Carbon strategies’ by Nuria Marba (Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats, Spain)
  • The UNEP Blue Carbon Initiative’ by Gabriel Grimsditch (UNEP)
  • Predicting the response of coastal marshes and mangroves to sea level rise and human impacts: state of science and information needs’ by Stephen Crooks (Philip Williams and Associates, USA)
  • Effects of Tidal Regimes, Mariculture and Restoration on Carbon Pools and Fluxes in Subtropical Mangrove Ecosystems of China: Implications for Blue Carbon Management’ by Guanghui Lin (Tsinghua University, China)
  • Assessing the permanence of Blue Carbon sinks with rising sea levels’ by Gail Chmura (McGill University, Canada)
  • The potential of Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation to contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions from deforested and degraded mangrove areas in Indonesia’ by James Davie (Mangrove Action Project Indonesia) 
  • Mangroves and carbon in West and Central Africa by Gabriel Grimsditch (UNEP) on behalf of Gordon Ajonina (Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Society)
  • Kelp forest/seaweed bed as mitigation and adaptation measure: Korean Project Overview’ by Ik Kyo Chung (Pusan National University, Korea).
The presentations, by some of the world's leading experts on restoration of coastal ecosystems and carbon, prompted discussion on two important and innovative blue carbon issues.

The first concerned best practices for developing carbon market projects based on coastal ecosystems and their abilities to sequestrated carbon. Now that methodologies for carbon market projects for mangroves and saltmarshes have either been approved or are in the process of development, we are beginning to see the emergence of projects to manage and restore these ecosystems for carbon credits. However, best practices for feasibility assessments, landscape considerations, permanence considerations, leakage, baselines, future scenarios and restoration practices are often not implemented in these fledgling carbon market projects, increasing their likelihood of failure. Appropriate guidance for assessing the feasibility and then implementing the activities related to these types of innovative projects either don't exist or have not yet permeated to project developers. The need and potential for this type of guidance for coastal blue carbon market projects was apparent, and this workshop explored how this guidance could be developed and disseminated in order to ensure that project developers have the best information necessary.

Another important, and regionally pertinent, issue discussed was the potential for macroalgae such as kelp or seaweed to act as a carbon sink. Although naturally macroalgae does photosynthesize and absorb carbon dioxide through primary productivity, growing up to 0.6 metres per day in some cases, it is not clear whether this carbon is sequestered and stored for the long term and whether it is thus effective for climate change mitigation. This is because seaweed does not put down deep sediments and instead grows on rocky substrates. Most of the carbon is stored in the fast-growing biomass, and the long term fate of this carbon is often unclear. However it only takes three to five years to develop the climax stage for a newly established macroalgal habitats in the marine environment, compared to the terrestrial ecosystems which take more than 50 years.

Seaweed farming for food, fertilizer, paper and biofuel is a growth sector especially in East Asian countries such as Korea, and the possibilities for the carbon market should be explored. The Korean professor from Pusan National University, Ik Kyo Chung, presented his work in the country and showed that farmed seaweed (i.e., not a natural community) sequestered between 15.7 and 16.6 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year, clearly indicating the potential as a carbon sink. Questions can be raised, though, about the permanence of this carbon sequestration, and we need to explore the fate of the carbon if the seaweed is used as biofuel, fertilizer, paper or food. A global issues paper outlining the current state of knowledge and the necessary questions to address would be an interesting step in raising the profile of this innovative form of blue carbon. Professor Chung even proposed the Coastal Use and Coastal Use Change Aquatic Vegetation as the coastal equivalent of the UNFCCC/IPCC category Land Use and Land Use Change Forests.

This workshop was certainly thought-provoking, and showed once again that the full potential of blue carbon is still a long way from being realized.

Venue details:

Blue Carbon workshop at World Expo 2012 in Yeosu, Korea

Workshop:  Coastal Blue Carbon: Mitigation opportunities and vulnerability to climate change

Symposium:  Effects of the climate change on the world’s oceans

Venue: Yeosu, Korea

Date: 14 May 2012


Post submitted by Gabriel Grimsditch, UNEP

Monday, May 21, 2012

Norway Supports Blue Carbon

Norway supports Blue Carbon in international climate change discussions -

Last week, at the thirty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), in Bonn Germany, Norway introduced text supporting blue carbon. Under issues to be addressed in the upcoming Research Dialogue meeting to be held in conjunction with next SBSTA meting (the thirty-sixth session), Norway proposed the following specific theme:

"The role of marine and coastal carbon sinks. While the bodies of the UNFCCC have developed strategies and mechanisms to enhance the terrestrial carbon sinks less attention has been given to the marine and coastal ecosystems."

Norway referenced UNEP’s 2009 report titled "Blue carbon – the role of healthy oceans in binding carbon" (produced by GRID-Arendal), and proposed the further exploration of policy options and strategies identified in the blue carbon report and the new scientific and technical findings produced since 2009.

Norway support could be significant for the blue carbon concept - Norway is the largest funder of the United Nations’ Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Programme.

UN-REDD Programme funding by source, all figures are in USD million (from http://www.climatefundsupdate.org/listing/un-redd-programme).

Norway's submission to the UNFCCC can can be found here:

UNEP's Blue Carbon report can be found here:

Climate Change at Norway's Ministry of the Environment:

Climate Change and the Environment at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad):

Seagrass loss = Carbon emissions


Mowing down seagrass meadows will cut loose carbon 

Seagrass meadows are disappearing at an annual rate of 1.5 per cent (Image: Roger Munns/Science Faction/Getty Images)

20 May 2012 / Michael Slezak - They may be trickier than trees for environmental protesters to chain themselves to, but it turns out that seagrass ecosystems hold as much carbon per hectare as the world's forests – and are now among its most threatened ecosystems.

In the past century, 29 per cent of seagrass has been destroyed globally", mostly by water pollution, dredging for new developments, and climate change. With seagrass meadows disappearing at an annual rate of about 1.5 per cent, 299 million tonnes of carbon are also released back into the environment each year, according to research published this week in Nature Geoscience (DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1477).

Piecing together old and new data from 946 seagrass meadows around the world, an international team of researchers estimated that seagrass captures 27.4 million tonnes of carbon each year, burying it in the soil below. And unlike forests that hold carbon for about 60 years then release it again, seagrass ecosystems have been capturing and storing carbon since the last ice age.

That means that up to 19.9 billion tonnes of carbon are currently stored within seagrass plants and the top metre of soil beneath them – more than twice the Earth's global emissions from fossil fuels in 2010. If the seagrass dies, all of that could be released into the environment, says marine ecologist and study author James Fourqurean from Florida International University in Miami, US.

"These are scary numbers," says Gary Kendrick, a co-investigator on the project from University of Western Australia at Crawley, Australia. "It would put us very much into the extreme of greenhouse situations very very quickly."

This grim outlook is reinforced in a study published at the same time in Nature Climate Change (DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1533). Gabriel Jorda from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Esporles, Spain, found the warming climate is eradicating the Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica, which is likely to be extinct before 2050. That is particularly worrying because Posidonia oceanica holds about 10 times as much carbon as most other species.

"It does look like there's going to be a global tipping point for many of these environments," Kendrick says.

Seagrass physiologist Peter Ralph from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, who was not involved in the research, said continued destruction of seagrass meadows could ultimately "release the genie from the bottle".

"Destroy them and we're going to release a lot of carbon that we have assumed is sequestered and tied up for a very long period of time," says Ralph.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vietnam - Mangrove Carbon & Conservation


Mangrove conservation - key to fighting climate change - grapples against development

Mangroves in West Bali National Park (©Center For International Forestry Research/Aulia Erlangga). 

14 May 2012 / LANG CO, Vietnam / Alisa Tang / CIFOR / Nestled on a narrow strand of sand that encloses Lap An Lagoon on the central coast of Vietnam are the village’s last few remaining hectares of mangroves, hovering above the water upon their stilted roots.

Some of the mangroves’ torpedo-shaped seeds have poked into the ground and spawned fragile little seedlings, but a visiting entourage obliviously stepped on the emerging offspring as they tramped out to the coast to photograph the delicate remainder of this once robust ecosystem.

According to the Vietnamese NGO, Center for Community Research and Development (CCRD), Lang Co had a thriving 100 hectares of mangroves two decades ago, but today there are only five hectares of poor quality mangrove, and those are now at risk of being turned into a golf course.

Mangroves, which hold three to four times more carbon than other forests, are indispensable repositories for carbon storage and play a key role in the struggle to rein in greenhouse gases and climate change. However, these vital coastal ecosystems are up against the more powerful forces of population growth, development and the growth of shrimp farms, and are being razed at such an alarming rate that scientists fear they could vanish in a century.

“In past 50 years, it has been deforested almost 50 percent. Almost 1.2 billion (tons of carbon are) emitted annually from mangroves,” CIFOR scientist Daniel Murdiyarso recently told a group of Vietnamese journalists during a workshop in Da Nang.

Mangroves grow along the coasts of 118 countries, and a quarter of the world’s 40 million hectares are in Southeast Asia. When they are thriving and healthy, their trunks and roots form a gigantic barrier against the sea, controlling erosion, protecting communities from storms, and providing an ideal environment for greater fish diversity.

CIFOR research published last year found that mangrove forests contain an average of 1,000 tons of carbon per hectare, compared with 300 tons per hectare of tropical forest, which could help to fight climate change by keeping carbon locked away on land, and out of the atmosphere.

The scientists found that 49 to 98 percent of the carbon in mangrove forests is stored below ground in rich, tidally submerged soil in which organic material decomposes anaerobically and therefore more slowly in the absence of oxygen.

Murdiyarso and other scientists from CIFOR and the US Forest Service, who for last year’s study laboriously trekked through mangroves in Micronesia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, are now helping to develop Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines on the storage of greenhouse gases in wetlands – a crucial development since these ecosystems have not previously been given much attention in international climate change processes.

Furthermore, they are cooperating with partners – in Vietnam, India, Gabon, Mozambique, Mexico, Costa Rica and Ecuador – to measure the carbon stock in wetlands around the world.

Yet up against development and dollars, mangroves stand little chance of survival without greater awareness and protection. In Vietnam, laws to protect the forests and mangroves exist, but enforcement is lax, if not non-existent.

“My interpretation is that it’s illegal but everything is negotiable in Vietnam and since there is no consequence for breaking the law (at least in the environmental domain), mangroves get cut.  Anyway, since there are so many conflicting laws, you can probably legalize what you’ve done by reference to a previous law,” said Jake Brunner, programme coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Vietnam.

Shrimp farming is a principal culprit behind mangrove deforestation. A 2011 analysis of images of Vietnam’s southern Mekong delta – an area that is typically mangroves – found that from 1973 to 2008, more than half of the mangroves were converted into shrimp farms, triggering serious erosion.

Nonetheless, communities and governments take little notice of mangroves’ protective properties until catastrophes strike – such as the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 180,000 people in western Indonesia’s Aceh province.

“In Aceh, after the tsunami, the result wouldn’t have been like this, if we still had mangroves,” Murdiyarso said.

Indonesia is now acutely conscious of disaster management and risk reduction, but in most countries – and most of the time – climate change impacts are incremental and unlikely to spur action.

“People become aware when the danger is huge, but what if the danger is small? We do not expect climate change to be just like that,” Murdiyarso said, snapping his fingers. “A cyclone or a hurricane is an extreme event, unusual from normal life, but not very frequent. Climate change is steadily occurring, and that is why we tend to forget the danger. Changing habits – changing the paradigm – is very difficult, especially if you have to deal with entities like government institutions.”

Mangroves for the Future (MFF), an initiative set up after the 2004 tsunami and co-chaired by IUCN and the UN Development Programme, offers grants to communities like Lang Co to protect their mangroves. Since 2008, MFF has implemented about 90 projects in its eight member countries across South and Southeast Asia. Lang Co’s US$29,000 project includes $23,000 from MFF and $6,000 from the grantee organisation, CCRD.

Under the MFF project, the Lang Co fishing association will take care of the mangroves. Local fishermen will be trained in mangrove and aquatic resource management and protection, but some do not seem convinced that conservation is what the community needs.

“If local authorities develop a golf course, it will not affect my life. Even if the mangroves are cleared, it won’t have much effect,” said Le Duy Hung, the 49-year-old chairman of the Loc Hai commune youth corps.

Mai Truc Lam, a 69-year-old fisherman, felt the golf course could even benefit the community: “If tourists come, then we can make a living.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Icelandic Soils and Blue Coastal Carbon


Amber McCormack / For the Clock / May 3, 2012

On Wed., Apr. 18, at Plymouth State University, Lisa Doner presented a lecture discussing how past environmental changes have affected modern day Iceland and its landscapes.

It may seem that the Icelandic landscape is quite a stretch for a topic at PSU, but there are significant reasons as to why research is done in this part of the world.

“Iceland has had a long record of strong human-induced changes and an even longer record of climate-induced changes,” says Doner. When it comes to the soil and landscape of Iceland there’s a lot to look at and add to research records.

“Winds that blow in Iceland are famous for blowing cars off the road on a regular basis,” says Doner. There are also very little trees and in order to really see them a visitor would have to go to a tree conservation or go to a more inhabited area of Iceland.

Usually when words like climate change and landscapes affected come up, the first conclusion that is drawn is that this is all because of global warming. The idea of global warming isn’t the only reason the Icelandic region is affected.

Along with Iceland’s climate- and human-induced changes, the impact of “deforestation, land drainage and rapid colonization” also affects and plays a large role in the soils of Iceland, continues Doner.

For researchers, one of the main goals is to “evaluate the effects of climate change in Icelandic landscapes, heavily impacted by human land use,” says Doner. Understanding and studying landscapes and different types of soils is not an easy task. Researchers in the field spend hours upon hours digging holes as deep as they can, while their tools are spread out all over the place. “It’s not all fun and games,” claims Doner.

There are soil samples that need to be taken and then recorded. Researchers must also process large amount of data about the soil and area, before they can continue with the task at hand.

Even though the research takes quite a bit of time and is taking places at a very large distance from PSU it’s still beneficial to be aware about and to learn about.

Another part of this series of lectures is on blue carbon. On Wed., Apr. 25 in Boyd, Linwood Pendleton, Director of Coastal and Ocean Policy at Duke University came to Plymouth State University to present on coastal blue carbon.

Blue coastal carbon is carbon that builds up in coastal habitats. The ones mainly discussed in the lecture are mangroves, salt marshes, and sea grasses.

Mangroves are located in the tropic and sub tropic areas and there isn’t a lot known about them at this point. Sea grasses “occur in many places, but there also very little known about them,” says Pendleton. Salt marshes are the most known habitat and are the more abundant coastal habitat out of the three. “These coastal habitats have a lot of carbon in their soil,” continues Pendleton, this can be caused by water pollution, and the fluctuation of sea levels rising too fast.

Keeping these habitats safe are important because these areas trap the carbon. When they are destroyed they release the carbon into the atmosphere and this could lead to climate change and a rise in greenhouse gases.

People make payments for blue carbon conservation meaning that they pay people to protect the different habitats. Another option is instead of earning money for destroying the habitats they are paid to protect them. “It’s even more valuable to protect these areas then reserve them, “says Pendleton.

Through these lectures PSU students have the ability to see how everyday actions affect the earth. There are ways to prevent and further study what’s going on with the world.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Blue Carbon highlighted by UNEP and IUCN

Supporting Canada’s Coasts Can Benefit Climate and Economy

Restoring Drained Marshes Will Provide Ecosystem Services Worth Over $14,500 per hectare, says Research

Montreal / Nairobi, 03 May 2012 – Reversing the degradation of coastal ecosystems in Canada and elsewhere can play an important role in tackling climate change, while bringing additional benefits to biodiversity and the economies of coastal communities.

This was the central message delivered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) during an event held by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal.  

From Canada to Cancun, coastal ecosystems store high levels of carbon in their soil. This so-called "Blue Carbon" is found in tidal salt marshes, grassy meadows subject to the rise and fall of ocean tides, and their tropical cousins, mangrove swamps.

Meadows of "sea grasses", permanently submerged by shallow ocean waters, also are important Blue Carbon sinks. All these ecosystems can store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for millennia, making an important contribution to efforts to tackle climate change.

However, if these ecosystems are degraded, the stored carbon risks being released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Despite Canada's cold climate, the country’s salt marshes store as much carbon as in warmer climes, explains Dr. Gail Chmura, a coastal researcher at McGill University, who spoke at the UNEP side event. 

But much of the marsh area in eastern Canada, including the coasts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec has been drained for use in agriculture, notes Chmura.

Studies by her research group show that ecological functions of drained marshes can be restored, along with the carbon sink.

In fact, Chmura and colleagues have calculated that the restoration of Canada's drained agricultural marshes will provide ecosystem services worth $14,535 per hectare and a renewed sink for carbon dioxide equivalent to 6 per cent of Canada's original commitment for reductions under the Kyoto Protocol.

UNEP and IUCN note that the degradation of coastal ecosystems means more than just a reduction in the amount of carbon they store. Other ecosystem services provided by seagrasses and mangroves, such as protection from storms and tsunamis, habitat for fish and wildlife, support of coastal fisheries, and local livelihoods of coastal inhabitants, are also adversely affected by their decline.

UNEP’s Blue Carbon Initiative supports scientific research into blue carbon in coastal ecosystems as well as the valuable ecosystem services they provide. UNEP also supports economically viable projects that monetize carbon and ecosystem services in order to better manage these coastal ecosystems. The Blue Carbon Initiative has thus far supported research into blue carbon in critical ecosystems in Africa, and has raised the profile of blue carbon globally with various reports and scientific conferences.

The event also highlighted the need for newer and more accurate ways of measuring the carbon stored in coastal ecosystems in Canada and beyond.  Such information can support countries in planning national strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

For more information, please contact:

Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, Deputy Director, UNEP Regional Office for North America, Tel: +1 (202) 974-1307 or E-mail: elisabeth.guilbaud-cox (at) unep.org

Dr. Gail Chmura, McGill University, on Tel: +1 (514) 926-6854 or E-mail: gail.chmura (at) mcgill.ca

Project Watershed's Blue Carbon Pilot Project

Blue Carbon acknowledged as a solution to mitigate climate change - 

Paul Horgen, of Comox Valley Project Watershed, states that the residents of Comox Valley (on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada) are now faced with the question of what they can do to offset their dependence on fossil fuels, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere.

Horgen argues that this can be done through "living carbon" and through Blue Carbon, suggesting that "Project Watershed's Blue Carbon Pilot Project provides a way to remove CO2 from our environment by restoring our estuary". He continues by encouraging people to engage in the restoration of crucial Blue Carbon ecosystems, pointing out that they remove carbon more effectively that trees. 

'Blue forest' could grow in Estuary

1 May 2012 / Postmedia News - A major activity on Earth Day is planting trees, says Paul Horgen, of Comox Valley Project Watershed.

"Yet at the first Earth Day in 1970, our student association planted a plastic tree to symbolize the lack of government policies to protect the environment," he notes. "Forty-two Earth Days have been celebrated and many symbolic real trees have been planted since then."

He noted a recent article in the New York Times stated: "Trees are on the front lines of our changing climate - and when the oldest trees in the world suddenly start dying, it's time to pay attention. Using the energy of the sun, trees remove the green house gas CO2 from the atmosphere, which mitigates our warming globe."

Horgen says a question facing residents of communities like the Comox Valley is how we can do more to offset our dependence on fossil fuels, which dump CO2 into our air.

This, he argues, can be done through 'living carbon' - the long-term storage of carbon in the tissues of trees and plants in forests. There is also an alternative - 'blue carbon', which is a form of living carbon that occurs in estuarine environments.

"Project Watershed's Blue Carbon Pilot Project provides a way to remove CO2 from our environment by restoring our estuary," he suggests.

"Those of us that live in coastal communities can really contribute to greenhouse gas removal from the atmosphere by replanting lost eelgrass and salt marsh communities that were damaged by dredging and developmental pressures during the industrial years on our estuary" adds Horgen.

"These restorations of 'blue forests' remove carbon, more effectively than trees and also provide habitat for fish and other estuarine organisms."

Project Watershed's Blue Carbon Pilot Project:

Mangrove carbon and shrimp farming in the news again

WWF faces criticism over their shrimp farming policy -

"The conversion of mangroves and coastal zones into ponds for shrimp cultivation... releases massive quantities of carbon, thus contributing to climate change."

Alfredo Quarto, Executive Director of Mangrove Action Project, recently denounced WWF's Shrimp Certification Standards at the Seafood Exposition in Brussels. He is supported by a great number of organizations arguing that WWF is greenwashing an environmentally damaging and corrupt industry which destroys one of our most important Blue Carbon ecosystems, namely the mangrove forests. 

Thousands join industrial shrimp aquaculture protest: WWF standards denounced as greenwash

29 April 2012/ by Alfredo Quarto (Mangrove Action Project)/ The Bahamas Weekly

Brussels  - Hundreds of NGOs in Asia, Latin America, Africa, North America and Europe are protesting against WWF and its lack of concern for the environment and local peoples' livelihood in the interest of industry profits from shrimp farming.

The conversion of mangroves and coastal zones into ponds for shrimp cultivation for the export industry has caused severe environmental destruction, depletion of coastal biodiversity and wild fisheries as well as shoreline erosion. It increases susceptibility to hurricanes and tsunamis and releases massive quantities of carbon, thus contributing to climate change.

The large scale use of fishmeal exacerbates all these problems. Coastal populations in tropical countries are severely affected by the loss of livelihood, food security and protection from storms. Protests are often met with human rights abuses.

Alfredo Quarto, Exec. Dir. for Mangrove Action Project Denouncing WWF's Shrimp Certification Standards at Seafood Exposition in Brussels, 25 April 2012

The WWF certification legitimises this situation by giving a “green stamp” to shrimp cultivation. Their certification standards, recently finalized, will be handed over to a certification company named the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).The standards have been developed by WWF and the aquaculture industry through a process called the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue led by a General Steering Committee (ShAD/GSC).

“The destruction of mangroves and coastal zones and the many human rights violations and food insecurity issues that the shrimp industry causes must not be condoned or encouraged, which is exactly what these so-called ‘shrimp standards’ will do,” says Khushi Kabir, Coordinator of Nijera Kori, a NGO working with around 650,000 people in several coastal districts of Bangladesh.

WWF has spent four years and at least US$ two million to develop standards without involving the stakeholders or resource users: i.e. neither the coastal communities of the shrimp producing nations whose livelihoods depend upon a functional coastal ecosystem, nor the NGOs that support them and the coastal ecosystems on which they depend have been involved. The standards will perpetuate an unsustainable and destructive system of aquaculture.

“WWF is greewashing an environmentally damaging and corrupt industry through certification of this luxury product,” says Luciana Queiroz of Redmanglar, a network of 254 organizations in 10 Latin American countries.

NGOs and networks in Asia, Latin America and Africa representing more then 300 organizations concerned with coastal environment and the livelihood of coastal communities have signed a letter of protest to WWF. In addition, around 30 NGOs in Europe and USA as well as many individuals have also signed the letter of protest rejecting the standards (appended below). We call on WWF to practice its stated Mission “to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature" by its Guiding Principles of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources - and to withdraw from certification of tropical shrimp aquaculture.

The Open Letter will be handed over to WWF on April 25. Natasha Ahmad, Coordinator of ASIA (Asia Solidarity Against Industrial Aquaculture), a network of 18 organisations in eight Asian countries emphasises that “the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concludes that there is a considerable net economic loss by shrimp aquaculture in mangroves and wetlands”.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Indonesia's disappearing Blue Carbon sinks

Mangrove carbon in Indonesia highlighted in National Public Radio (NPR) story -

Today, one quarter of the world's mangroves can be found in Indonesia. Mangrove forests have always played an essential role in people's lives and they have for long been associated with firewood, timber and potential shrimp farming land. However, people are becoming increasingly aware of other resources and benefits that comes with mangrove forests leading the North Sulawesi's mangroves to being restored after years of degradation. Some dedicated individuals focus on awareness raising, enlightening local residents about the importance of these ecosystems, not only for carbon sequestration, but also for the production of food, coastal protection, biodiversity and tourism.

In order to get a perspective on how much carbon can be captured and stored in these forests, Jin Eong Ong, a professor at the Univesiti Sains Malaysia's Center for Marine and Coastal Studies, estimates that Indonesia's mangroves absorb and store enough carbon dioxide to offset the annual emission of 5 million cars. One of the main obstacles facing restoration work in Indonesia is that an acre of  mangroves is worth $84 whereas an acre of cleared areas with oil palms is worth $20 000, leading many people to choose the latter option.  


Listen to the NPR news story: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=151548173&m=151671092 

Drama Amid Indonesia’s Disappearing Mangroves 

30 April 2012 / by Anthony Kuhn/ NPR

A man gathering firewood to sell cuts down mangrove trees in the coastal area of Medan city on Indonesia's Sumatra island on Jan. 31. The country, which has one-quarter of the world's mangroves, is losing them at a rate of 6 percent a year. The coastal forests play important ecological and environmental roles. (Suntanta Aditya/AFP/Getty Images)

The rising tide laps at the feet of local children and fishermen and submerges all but the tops of the mangrove trees of Tiwoho village in Indonesia's North Sulawesi province. At one degree of latitude north of the equator, the climate here is about the same all year round: hot, wet and perfect for the forests of salt-tolerant trees that grow along sheltered coastlines.

Indonesia has one-quarter of the world's mangrove forests, but it's losing them at an alarming rate of 6 percent a year. The world as a whole is estimated to have lost half of its mangroves in the past half-century.

Map Of Indonesia's North Sulawesi Province -
(Stephanie d'Otreppe/NPR)

The flooded forests help protect coastlines from tidal floods and erosion, provide a home to an important variety of biodiversity, and provide important absorption of the world's carbon dioxide.

Replanting, Re-Educating

But for the villagers, the mangroves have meant something else. The villagers used to cut down the trees for firewood, timber and to make shrimp ponds. But two decades ago, farmer Kamal Amani and other villagers began to replant them.

"Looking at the mangroves now, I am very pleased," he says, surveying the expanse of vegetation from a hilltop. "I am proud of what we have achieved for future generations. And we're very proud of Professor Jamaluddin."

Rignolda Jamaluddin, a marine scientist at a local university, has devoted himself to rebuilding North Sulawesi's mangroves, one village at a time.

He says he has tried to explain to the residents how the mangroves serve as a breeding ground for the tuna and grouper that teem in the local waters, protect the shoreline from tsunamis, and provide an abundance of useful materials that can be gathered without harming the forest.

"We can take benefits from the mangrove by not cutting the trees," Jamaluddin says. "For example, we make alcohol, we make sugar from mangrove trees." Villagers have also learned to make and sell bamboo furniture and develop ecotourism.

The mangrove forest also protects a neighboring ecosystem: the coral reefs, which are a favorite with divers. The mangroves help to filter and capture river sediment that would otherwise bury the reefs.

Role In Carbon Capture

Rignolda Jamaluddin, a local marine scientist, stands in front of the mangrove forests of North Sulawesi that he has worked to rebuild over the past two decades. Part of his strategy included educating villagers on ways they would benefit from not cutting down the trees, such as making alcohol, sugar and furniture from the trees.

Jamaluddin walks over the sandy soil and into the thick underbrush of the mangrove forest. At first glance, all seems silent and deserted. But look and listen closely, and you'll find a microcosm of constant change, cycles of life and death, growth and decay.

Some mangrove roots poke upward through the soil to breathe, like an ocean full of snorkels. Other mangroves grip the mud with a lattice of roots, like the flying buttresses of a cluster of gothic cathedrals. All of them have adapted to their environment by developing filtration systems to survive in saltwater that would kill other trees.

There's a constant snapping and popping sound in the forest, which Jamaluddin says is the sound of crabs snapping their pincers and mollusks shutting their shells. Those animals are not just tasty links in the local food chain; they're also helping to compost fallen leaves and organic matter, turning them into an underground layer of carbon-rich peat.

Mangroves are a "very efficient living system in terms of sequestering carbon dioxide," says Daniel Murdiyarso, a climate change expert at the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, Indonesia. The carbon dioxide, he continues, is "stored in the leaves, and the leaves will be consumed by the feeders, including crabs and all those microorganisms below the ground."

Murdiyarso says mangroves store five to eight times more carbon underground than above ground. The more mature the mangrove forest, the deeper underground its peat layer extends.

Mangroves account for less than 1 percent of the world's tropical forest area, Murdiyarso says, but their destruction produces 10 percent of all carbon emissions from deforestation. Deforestation, meanwhile, is the second-largest source of carbon emissions after the burning of fossil fuels.

Jin Eong Ong, a professor at the Universiti Sains Malaysia's Center for Marine and Coastal Studies, estimates that Indonesia's mangroves absorb and store enough carbon dioxide to offset the annual emissions of 5 million cars, roughly equivalent to all the registered vehicles in Massachusetts.

Best Strategy May Be The Local One

A rising tide submerges mangrove trees and lifts local boats in Tiwoho Village in Indonesia's North Sulawesi province. Two decades ago, locals began efforts to revitalize the area's mangroves. (Anthony Kuhn/NPR )

There's no doubt that Indonesia's mangroves provide many valuable services: storing carbon, filtering water and nourishing wildlife. The question is: How much are the services worth, and how can paying for them help protect the mangroves?

In Jakarta, Forestry Ministry official Eko Warsito frames the problem this way: "More than 50 percent of Indonesia's population lives in coastal areas, and most of them are poor. An ordinary plot of mangroves is worth $84 an acre. But if it's cleared and planted with oil palms, it can be worth more than $20,000 an acre."

Warsito says some developed countries, including Spain and the Netherlands, have already begun paying Indonesia to plant mangroves. In exchange, they get carbon credits that they can trade or use as a permit to emit carbon.

The city of Jakarta is buying mangrove seeds from the Forestry Ministry and planting them in Jakarta Bay, Warsito notes. Restoring the mangroves, city officials hope, will stop saltwater from seeping inland and contaminating the city's water supplies.

And, he adds, Indonesia is set to issue a presidential decree outlining a strategy for the sustainable management of its mangroves.

Then again, in Tiwoho, the villagers have restored mangroves without government policies or foreign investment. The fact that the village is in Bunaken National Park doesn't seem to have helped the mangroves much.

Jamaluddin argues that government management is less effective at protecting mangroves than community-based education.

"If the local people have their own strategy, their own knowledge and the ecosystem already functioning naturally, then we don't need the regulation, like the national park," he says. "So just let them manage the resources in their own way."

This is not just the most cost-effective way to protect the mangroves, Jamaluddin says; more importantly, it's nature's way.