Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Money for Mangroves

Results of a study exploring blue carbon economic potential by Siikamäki et a. (2012) -

Money for Mangroves

The Carbon Brief | Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 | by Freya Roberts

Mangroves spanning the world's tropical waters perform many functions, including locking up carbon. By working out how much carbon they store, and how much it would cost to preserve them, a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that protecting mangroves is actually cheaper - for each tonne of carbon dioxide emissions avoided -  than buying into the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Or at least it was. But since the research was completed, the carbon price - the cost of emitting one tonne of carbon dioxide under the Emissions Trading Scheme, has fallen. So, purely in terms of avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, is preserving mangroves still the cheaper option of the two?

What the study did

Before the study could get down to the finer economic details, it first mapped out how much carbon is stored in the world's mangroves.

The authors used satellites to work out the area mangroves in the tropics cover and the amount of carbon they store. This method is similar to those used in recent studies looking more broadly at emissions from tropical deforestation. Although this system isn't perfect, it allows scientists to build a reasonably accurate picture of carbon stock and to estimate how fast mangroves are being lost.

Working out the cost of keeping carbon locked up in mangroves is more complicated. The authors had to work out the most profitable way of using that land if it were not being preserved, and add to this the cost of setting up and managing a protection area. And all of these costs depend on where in the world the mangroves are located.

But once you know about the amount of carbon being stored, and how much it costs to prevent it from being released if the land is developed for other uses, it's relatively simple maths to work out how much each tonne of stored carbon dioxide is worth.

The economic case

Essentially, the study finds that a big chunk of global emissions can be avoided at a relatively low cost, before protecting mangroves becomes prohibitively expensive. The authors say:

"the majority of potential emissions from mangroves could be avoided for less than $10 per [metric] ton"

Here's how it looks:
Screen Shot 2012-07-30 At 12.22.32
Fig. 1. Avoided emissions from mangrove preservation. Source: adapted from Siikamäki et al., 2012
Their conclusion is demonstrated in the central (blue) estimate, when looking at the global picture. Working out what quantity of emissions are avoided depends on how much would have been released if the land had been converted. Since this is only partially understood, the authors also give a high (black) and low (red) estimate.

But figuring out how good a deal this is is pretty difficult unless you can compare it to other mechanisms which essentially aim to do the same thing - avoid emissions. Like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

The grey band on the graph above demonstrates the carbon price under the ETS. Looking at the central estimate, and as the authors summarise, you can see a lot of those avoided emissions could be achieved for less than $10 per tonne, which is the bottom end of the spectrum for ETS prices in 2011.

So if you're looking to spend some serious pocket money by taking future greenhouse gas emissions off the market, mangroves appear to be better value for money. The only trouble is, the price of carbon permits can plummet and suddenly buying into the ETS becomes the cheaper option.

Does it still make economic sense?

This is what is happening now, in mid-2012. The price of permits has collapsed over the past nine months. The market is oversupplied, and the tough economic conditions are reducing demand. In terms of this new study, it may mean that the range of ETS permit prices no longer reflect the actual price.

Let's take a quick, crude look. The authors give a range for 2011 carbon prices between $10-$20 per tonne. That's roughly €8-€16. In the past week the carbon price has been around €7-€8.  And over the past 6 weeks it has at times dropped to around €6.50 and peaked just above €8. Convert that range back into US dollars, that's $8-$10 ish per tonne.
Screen Shot 2012-07-30 At 15.36.49
Fig. 2. Avoided emissions from mangrove preservation, including current price range of EU carbon permits. Source: adapted from Siikamäki et al., 2012
That means currently, the carbon price is really sitting on or just beyond that lower line of the grey band. Looking at the orange line which is the $8 cut off, this really is the crucial point. If carbon prices fall any lower, the economic case for preserving mangroves looks much weaker.

This comparison is of course very simplistic, and doesn't really capture all the economic and environmental benefits that mangroves provide. In tropical regions, they are a natural defence against rising sea levels, growing upwards out of shallow water and raising the height of the land in their wake. They are also a first line of defence against storm surges, absorbing energy and preventing erosion. And they provide food, building materials, firewood and medicines for surrounding communities.

All of this doesn't really matter, it's just a fun comparison. What it does tell you is this: protecting mangroves is cheap, and buying permits is only just slightly more expensive. The ETS is supposed to make carbon cost a reasonable amount, enough to encourage industry and big business to become more efficient and less polluting. But its failing to do so. The EU have made some intervention but at the moment it's not enough.

Original article: 


Juha Siikamäki, James N. Sanchirico, and Sunny L. Jardine (2012): Global economic potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from mangrove loss. PNAS

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Advancing coastal carbon

UNEP-WCMC recently released “The climate relevance of ecosystems beyond forests and peatlands - A review of current knowledge and recommendations for action” (Epple, C. 2012), which includes consideration of coastal carbon ecosystems.

Download pdf
Author Cordula Epple explores coastal carbon in mangrove, tidal saltmarsh and seagrass meadow ecosystems. The report includes several recommendations to policy-makers, science and project funding:

Policy recommendations:
  • Enabling legal and policy frameworks for ecosystem-based mitigation need to be adopted in-country (e.g. regulations for land use  planning) – the Rio Conventions (UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD) can help promote this process.
  • National implementation of UNFCCC, CBD and UNCCD should take place in a more integrated manner in order to promote multiple benefits and increase synergies and efficient use of resources. In addition, application of ecosystem-based approaches contributing to both climate change mitigation and adaptation should be enhanced. 
  • Mechanisms to fund ecosystem-based mitigation measures should be identified, developed and implemented. 
  • Guidance on how to address ecosystem-based mitigation as possible part of NAMAs should be developed. Assistance should be provided to countries that wish to develop such measures. 
  • Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes should be applied to provide incentives to institutions, land managers etc. for sustainable land management. 
  • In order to facilitate enhanced generation and use of voluntary carbon offsets, the development of accounting standards for mitigation  activities and/or ecosystem types which are not covered by already existing standards should be supported, building on the existing standards.
Science recommendations:
  • Improve global mapping of current and potential carbon stocks and fluxes. Enhance knowledge on greenhouse gas sequestration and emission rates for available management options across all types of ecosystems.
  • Make available knowledge more easily accessible, also for decision-makers, donors, project developers and conservation practitioners. 
  • Carry out further research on soil carbon stocks, sequestration potentials and stabilisation capacities. Soil carbon stocks in general, their spatial heterogeneity and their dynamics including the temporal aspect need much greater attention. Internationally standardised methods need to be developed for measuring soil carbon across all types of ecosystems. 
  • Enhance the process-level understanding of dynamics related to all major greenhouse gases and carry out Integrated Net Radiative Forcing analysis (not just GHGs) for important processes and land use options. 
  • For temperate grasslands and savannahs, carry out research into the consequences of fire management and afforestation for mitigation, land use and biodiversity. 
  • Pay attention to the particular knowledge gaps for coastal ecosystems with regard to monitoring of trends, mapping of current and potential carbon stocks and fluxes, identification of drivers leading to loss and degradation of carbon stocks, and development of standardized methods for estimation of carbon stocks, sequestration and emissions. 
  • Develop feasible accounting tools for all types of ecosystems, carbon pools and greenhouse gases, including regionally appropriate default values, indicator-based approaches and computer-based modelling. 
  • Carry out further research on the likely impacts of climate change and associated phenomena, such as sea level rise and elevated carbon dioxide concentrations, on ecosystem carbon stocks, paying attention to the issue of critical thresholds. 
  • Improve the representation of non-forest ecosystems in process-oriented models on carbon stock changes and their interaction with climate change. 
  • Carry out further research into impacts of man-made changes of hydrology on carbon  stocks and interactions with climate change. 
  • Develop and calibrate models to make sensitivity analyses of how ecosystem feedbacks to climate are affected by interactions with ecosystem-based mitigation measures
  • Carry out further research into the fate of carbon transported by erosion processes. 
  • Intensify research on management options that link climate change mitigation with multiple benefits, including for adaptation. 
  • Enhance knowledge on the relationship between soil carbon stocks and agronomic/biomass productivity of different land use and management systems. 
  • Assess direct and indirect impacts of policies related to production and use of biofuels, including impacts on soil carbon stocks.  
  • Develop tools for decision-makers to assist with the prioritisation of options for action,  including through assessment of project feasibility and potential for multiple benefits, opportunity cost mapping and scenario mapping. 
  • Improve models to identify suitable areas for restoration actions.
Funding recommendations :
  • Donors and other actors are encouraged to actively promote new ecosystem-based mitigation approaches, and test and demonstrate their feasibility, i.a. through pilot projects with appropriate scientific support; such projects should at the same time enhance the knowledge base on the climate relevance of ecosystems other than forests and peatlands, and on best practices for strengthening their role in climate change mitigation. Multiple benefits should be addressed in both project design and scientific monitoring and evaluation. 
  • Support and capacities for the maintenance and enhancement of climate change mitigation benefits of non-forest ecosystems should be increased through communication of project results, capacity building, awareness raising and environmental education. 
  • Innovative funding instruments should be developed, tested and used. 

- Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Blue Carbon in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia To build 1st Mangrove Eco-Park In Gulf Region


me-confidential.com | Thursday, July 19th, 2012 | by Jaber Ali

Saudi Arabia, one of the oil-rich Gulf Arabian monarchies, mulls building a landmark mangrove eco-park, first of its kind in the region.

This environment friendly project, spearheaded by Saudi Aramco Company, the world wealthiest firm, will serve as a breeding ground for shrimp, crab and fish species. This park, set to open in 2014, will be built over a 62km area in the Saudi industrial city of Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

This project, part of Aramco green effort to plant 1 million mangroves over the next five years, will have a huge impact on Saudi Arabia ecosystem. It will also contribute to raising the public awareness of the importance of mangroves which are rich in carbon and serve as a breeding and nursery ground for a variety of marine life. Mangroves act as a buffer zone between the land and the sea, helping protect the land from erosion. They also purify water by absorbing harmful elements and pollutants.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oil Effects Blue Carbon Ecosystems

Deep Sea News report on Deepwater Horizon oil spill research

Excerpted from - Deep Sea News | Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 | by DR BIK

A new Silliman et al. PNAS paper is looking at the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on heavily-impacted salt marsh ecosystems around Barataria Bay, Louisiana. In contrast to Deep Sea News' own study, looking at oil impacts on sandy Gulf Coast beaches, marshlands provide a particularly interesting contrast: 

"Past studies investigating effects of oil spills on salt marshes indicate that negative impacts on plants can be overcome by vegetation regrowth into disturbed areas once the oil has been degraded (8, 28–30). This finding suggests that marshes are intrinsically resilient to (i.e., able to recover from) oil-induced perturbation, especially in warmer climates such as the Gulf of Mexico, where oil degradation and plant growth rates may be high." (Silliman et al. 2012)

"These data provide evidence of salt-marsh community die-off in the near-shore portion of the Louisiana shoreline after the BP-DWH oil spill because of high concentrations of oil at the edge of the marsh. Specifically, these findings suggest that the veg- etation at the marsh edge, by reaching above the highest high- tide line in the microtidal environment of the Gulf of Mexico, blocked and confined incoming oil to the shoreline region of the marsh. This shoreline containment of the oil may have protected inland marsh but led to extensive mortality of marsh plants lo- cated from the marsh edge to 5–10 m inland and to sublethal plant impacts on plants 10–20 m from the shoreline, where plant oiling was less severe….These data also suggest that the mechanism of the lethal effects of oil are more likely derived from interference with respiration and photosynthesis than from direct toxicity because plant death only occurred at high levels of oil coverage." (Silliman et al. 2012)



Silliman BR, van de Koppel J, McCoy MW, Diller J, Kasozi GN, Earl K, et al. (2012): Degradation and resilience in Louisiana salt marshes after the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109 (28), pp 11234-11239. doi:10.1073/pnas.1204922109

- Posted by Sven Stadtmann, GRID-Arendal