Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Website Puts Spotlight on Blue Carbon

Plans for the new Blue Carbon Portal include the potential incorporation of Blue Climate Solutions' Blue Carbon Blog (this blog) - - -

New Website Puts Spotlight on Blue Carbon

Information Portal Showcases Climate and Sustainable Development Role of Coastal Ecosystem
Mangroves forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs can be connected to each other through nutrient cycles, physical processes, plant and animal migration and human impact. Photo credit: GRID-Arendal/Jason Valdez (Marine Photobank)

Nairobi, 19 December 2012 - Marine ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and saltwater marshes, can capture and store a significant amount of atmospheric carbon. Yet the full potential of these "blue carbon" habitats to mitigate climate change remains relatively overlooked.

To improve understanding of blue carbon, and highlight innovative projects that support these critical ecosystems, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched 'The Blue Carbon Portal':
Co-managed by UNEP and its Norway-based collaborative centre GRID-Arendal, the portal is the world's premier comprehensive community-based website for all matters related to blue carbon. 

It aims to provide a dynamic platform to discuss blue carbon issues, illustrate blue carbon initiatives worldwide, and create a network for different projects to share information, ideas and resources.

Other features of the Blue Carbon Portal include:
  • Updated and archived blue carbon news; 
  • Global map utility illustrating blue carbon projects and initiatives; 
  • Expert blog;
  • Resources page for all blue carbon publications, presentations and videos; and
  • Calendar of blue carbon events.
In addition to their climate benefits, blue carbon ecosystems play a critical economic role, through the services they provide to coastal and island communities. These include nurseries for coastal fisheries, protection of shorelines, supporting of coastal tourism and cultural heritage, and the conservation of marine biodiversity.

Yet despite their major contribution to sustainable development, coastal ecosystems continue to be degraded or lost at an alarming rate. 

More than half of the world's original mangrove forest has disappeared, often due to the conversion of habitat for shrimp and fish aquaculture. Over-exploitation of wood products, urbanization, and diversion of fresh water flow are other major drivers or degradation. The annual global rate of mangrove loss is presently between 1 and 2 per cent.

Seagrass meadows are found on every continent except Antarctica, with a global area estimated to exceed 177,000 km2. This is a reduction of 30 per cent in the last 100 years, and the rate of loss is thought to have accelerated considerably in the past 40 years.
The new website is part of UNEP's Blue Carbon Initiative, which aims to develop a global partnership to advance the sound management of coastal and marine ecosystems in order to ensure that their carbon sequestration and storage functions are maintained, and emissions of greenhouse gases are avoided. 

To submit content to the site, please contact the portal administrator via links on provided at:

Story link:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mangrove carbon in Quatar and at the UNFCCC

Qatar’s mangroves: why they matter to climate change

8 Dec 2012 / BY

Mangroves are one of the few plants that can withstand Qatar’s harsh desert conditions. Neil Palmer (CIAT).

DOHA, Qatar (8 December, 2012) - Indonesian scientist Daniel Murdiyarso and Lebanese scientist Mohamad Khawlie are spending the morning hopping over muddy streams, tasting salty leaves, and examining aerial root systems.

Just 60 kilometres from Doha but a world away from the air-conditioned unreality of the Qatar National Convention Centre where the UN climate talks are taking place, Murdiyarso and Khawlie are exploring Qatar’s northeastern coastline, indulging a shared passion – for mangroves.

“Mangroves have been here in the Arab Gulf since ancient times,” says Khawlie, an environmental consultant with the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI).

“They play a very important role, first in the ecosystem, and they are also important for both humans – their wood and fruits – and for animals, especially camel herds.”

Coastal ecosystems like this one at Al Zakhira play a special role in Gulf countries like Qatar, where few other plants can withstand the harsh desert conditions. Mangroves and salt marshes are uniquely adapted to the Gulf’s saline seas, high winds, and infrequent rainfall; and they provide a haven for birds, fish and other animals.

And, as Daniel Murdiyarso from the Centre for International Forestry Research points out, they’re also critically important for climate change.

“Mangroves are very good at sequestering carbon – they store five to eight times more carbon than tropical or boreal forest,” he says.

Mangrove forest’s complex root systems anchor the plants into underwater sediment, slowing down incoming tidal waters and allowing organic and inorganic material to settle into the sediment surface. Low oxygen conditions slow decay rates, so much of the carbon accumulates in the soil. When mangrove swamps are converted for other uses, large amount of carbon are then released to the atmosphere.

“So losing mangroves, even if it is a small area, is very significant in terms of carbon loss,” says Murdiyarso.

Over the last 35 years almost 50 percent of the Earth’s coastal ecosystems have disappeared due to agricultural and aquaculture expansion, forest overexploitation, infrastructure and industrial development.

This doesn’t just result in carbon emissions. It also renders coastal populations more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including sea level rises, storm surges and high winds, as losing mangroves means losing a natural barrier that protects coastlines and prevents erosion.

Khawlie said that Qatar has recently recognised the value of its mangroves, with 40 percent of the country’s coastline now protected by the government.

“The implementation of the law is also improving,” says Khawlie.

Khawlie is working with QEERI, part of the Qatar Foundation, as well as Qatar University and international partners including UNESCO and Conservation International (CI), to develop projects focused on Qatar’s mangroves, including mapping their biodiversity and exploring their cultural significance.

In July, the Qatar Foundation together with CI, launched “Mapping the Mangroves”, a project which encourages the public to upload GPS-tagged photos, videos, and text about Qatar’s mangroves to an online map.

The crowd-sourced data can be used by scientists, educators and NGOs – and has recently been expanded worldwide.

Youth ambassadors map the mangroves in Bahia, Brazil, by uploading photos and reports of different species of animals and plants they found. Qatar Foundation International

CIFOR works on mangroves through the newly-renamed SWAMP project (formerly the Tropical Wetlands Initiative for Climate Adaptation and Mitigation or TWINCAM) and is currently exploring a relationship with QEERI.

As Murdiyarso and Khawlie explore the Al Zakhira wetlands, a flock of flamingos takes flight and swoops south towards a horizon dominated by new housing developments.

Murdiyarso says given the importance of mangroves – and wetlands in general – for climate change, they need to be given more attention by the climate negotiators locked in discussions down the highway in Doha.

“Mangrove ecosystems are undergoing high pressure worldwide,” he said.

“So the international community – including the negotiators here in Qatar – need to consider the role of mangroves and their global contribution.”

Last week, the technical advisory body to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to hold a workshop to discuss research developments in coastal and marine ecosystems – the first step in getting mangroves on the international climate agenda.

The workshop is expected to take place in Honduras in the second half of 2013.

Blue Carbon Policy Action Plan

First Action Plan For World’s Blue Carbon Policy

Durban, South Africa, 6 December 2011 – The first policy framework outlining activities needed to include coastal marine areas such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses into the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been presented in a report by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Conservation International (CI), two of the leading members of the Blue Carbon Initiative.

The report, “Blue Carbon Policy Framework”, outlines opportunities for including the conservation of coastal areas in the climate change policies and financing processes currently being negotiated in Durban. The study also highlights the need for the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the voluntary carbon market to take coastal marine ecosystems into account.

The oceans and marine biodiversity are crucial in regulating the global climate”, says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “Oceans absorb 93.4% of the heat produced by climate change as well as one third of human-induced carbon dioxide. Coastal areas also have an exceptional capacity to store carbon. But currently natural solutions that the marine world offers to climate change challenges are rarely taken into account in international climate change policy.”

The UNFCCC and the mechanism known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, fostering conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), support the conservation and restoration of terrestrial forests as a way to reduce the effects of climate change. But the importance of coastal carbon sinks, such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses, is not yet fully recognized by the Convention.

Although coastal ecosystems cover only one to two percent of the area covered by forests globally, improving their management can supplement efforts to reduce emissions from tropical forest degradation. A square kilometer of a coastal ecosystem can store up to five times more carbon than a square kilometer of mature tropical forests. But currently these areas are being destroyed three to four times faster than forests, releasing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the ocean, and contributing to climate change.

We think this recognition is critical,” explains report co-author Dr. Emily Pidgeon, Conservation International’s Senior Director of Marine Strategic Initiatives and a leading Blue Carbon conservation scientist. “The management of carbon in coastal systems can already be included in a number of UNFCCC and REDD+ components. This plan was produced to help detail what we see as key next steps in terms of a full integration of blue carbon into existing initiatives.”

We now have scientific evidence that conserving mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrasses and other blue carbon habitats is a very precious tool in our fight against climate change,” says Pierre-Yves Cousteau, IUCN’s Goodwill Ambassador and founder of Cousteau Divers, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the marine world. “These muddy coastal areas also help us adapt to the changing climate. They protect local communities from storms and regulate the quality of coastal water. Increased recognition of their importance among the climate change community will hopefully improve the way they’re managed and conserved

We need to convince the broader policy community that blue carbon has a strong scientific basis and that it should be taken into account as a valuable tool in our suite of global efforts to confront and adapt to the impacts of climate change. We also need decision makers to understand that this tool requires adequate funding to maximize the many benefits it provides to people,” adds Pidgeon.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Madagascar's Mangrove Carbon Project

Making Moves Towards Madagascar’s First Mangrove Carbon Project 7 December 2012 / Blue Forests Team, Madagascar / Blue Ventures    

Madagascar’s 5,600 km coastline includes Africa’s third largest extent of mangroves: an estimated 213,000 hectares! These “blue” forests take and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide and support a diverse and in many cases unique range of plants and animals. For residents of coastal communities along Madagascar’s west coast, who are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change in the world, livelihoods are inherently dependent upon the numerous goods and services associated with healthy, intact mangrove ecosystems.

Comprised of a mixture of Malagasy, Canadian, American and Zimbabwean scientists and conservationists, and augmented by the knowledge and expertise of community members, the Blue Ventures Blue Forests (BF) team remains hard at work helping to facilitate community-based mangrove restoration, conservation, sustainable use and alternative livelihoods. Following a national assessment of mangrove dynamics that confirms that massive over-exploitation is a widespread issue, the BF team has chosen a few areas to investigate the potential for payments for ecosystem services (PES) and carbon financing projects.

A fishing pirogue (canoe) in the channel of Ambondrolava’s mangrove forest (Photo by Samir Gandhi)

The Ambondrolava mangroves in southwest Madagascar have been degraded, deforested, or both within the last several decades. The remaining mangroves and deforested areas of Ambondrolava, are a potential candidate area for Madagascar’s first mangrove forest carbon project! Recognizing the severity of the situation and this promising opportunity to correct it, the BF team has partnered with the Belgian NGO Honko (meaning “mangrove” in Malagasy) and is working hand-in-hand with locals. Recently, we have spent several months consulting with community members to understand land-use and tenure rights in the area, and conduct socio-economic surveys and a comprehensive ecological inventory.

The community management association has also taken part in a participatory mapping exercise, which focussed on depicting historic and contemporary distribution of land-cover types and land-use categories. This exercise also involved documenting goals for land-cover and land-use transformations in the coming decade. In addition, at the time of writing, a mangrove biomass inventory is ongoing, which will result in estimates of total forest carbon stocks and work towards local capacity building through training community members in measurement techniques.

Participatory planning of conservation activities with members of the Mamelo Honko (“Growing Mangroves”) management committee. (Photo by Ben Taylor)  

Using the results of our field work and Honko’s history of mangrove replanting efforts since 2008, we are currently making tangible progress in laying the groundwork for a climate services project, which can link local communities with voluntary carbon markets. A similar initiative is underway by the Mikoka Pimoja project in Kenya, which is developing a mangrove forest carbon project through the UK-based charity, The Plan Vivo Foundation, Honko and the Blue Ventures BF team are working together to do the same! The aim of the BF team’s work in Ambondrolava is to provide technical advice and information to local communities in their efforts to manage and conserve mangrove ecosystem services. By helping communities to adhere to Plan Vivo forest carbon projects, communities may later be able to pursue the registration of their conservation activities as part of a forest carbon project. Carbon revenues can help fund continued mangrove restoration and expansion, sustainable use, and the implementation of various alternative livelihoods projects, all of which can greatly benefit the health and security of local communities who will depend on mangrove forests for decades to come.

The key to the success of these projects is community ownership – in the end it is the communities that, as custodians, will reap the benefits of conservation activities or forest carbon projects. Blue Ventures Blue Forests team believes that our role is to support communities in providing technical advice, and linking communities with partners, to maintain healthier mangrove forests which support the traditional lifestyles on Madagascar’s west coast, and so many other communities across the globe!

Dr. Chandra Silori on mangrove carbon

Review of mangroves as blue carbon sink - - -
Mangroves under Pressure: Forgotten Wetlands in the Changing Climate

Dr. Chandra Silori tells us why mangroves need to receive more attention in international climate change negotiations, laying out the many benefits provided by these “blue carbon sinks.”

Mangrove forests in Pred Nai, Trat province, Thailand.

2012/12/07 - This was the theme of one of the side events on Forest Day 6 in Doha on December 2, 2012.  A panel of well known coastal and marine ecologists, sociologists, policy makers, and environmentalists in Doha shared their thoughts and reminded everyone present about the importance of the mangrove and other marine ecosystems in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The capacity of mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deposit it in a reservoir is becoming increasingly recognized at the international level. Of all the biological carbon, also termed as “green carbon” captured in the world, over half (55%) is captured by marine living organisms, also known as “blue carbon.” Mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses form much of the earth’s blue carbon sinks. They store a comparable amount of carbon per year to that of all other plant biomass on land. Quoting the findings of a study conducted by a team of researchers from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest and Northern research stations, University of Helsinki, and CIFOR, one of the panelists shared that per hectare mangrove forests store up to four times more carbon than most other tropical forests around the world.

Research attributes this ability of mangroves to store such large amounts of carbon, in part, to the deep organic-rich soils in which it thrives. Mangrove-sediment carbon stores were on average five times larger than those typically observed in temperate, boreal, and tropical terrestrial forests, on a per-unit-area basis. The mangrove forest’s complex root systems, which anchor the plants into underwater sediment, slow down incoming tidal waters allowing organic and inorganic material to settle into the sediment surface. Low oxygen conditions slow decay rates, resulting in much of the carbon accumulating in the soil. In fact, mangroves have more carbon in their soil alone than most tropical forests have in all their biomass and soil combined.

However, despite such a substantial role of mangroves in absorbing atmospheric carbon, all the panelists unanimously agreed that mangrove forests have yet not been given due attention in the global debate on climate change. They need much more attention in the UNFCCC climate change talks, on the level of that given to other forest ecosystems, such as terrestrial forests and peat lands. Interestingly, in a way, mangroves combine both, tropical and peat land forests together, and have the highest productivity of any forest ecosystem on earth.

Mangroves perform a variety of useful ecological, bio-physical, and socio-economic functions. They not only serve as breeding grounds for a variety of fishes and other marine fauna, but also protect the inhabitants of coastal areas during natural calamities such as storms, typhoons, and tsunamis, by serving as natural barriers. Such natural calamities are projected to increase in future due to increased anthropogenic pressures, and climatic changes. From a socio-economic point of view, mangroves provide a variety of benefits. Serving as a breeding ground for fishes and other marine fauna, they provide an income source to the local fishermen communities, while mangrove wood is used to make charcoal and also as wood fuel for cooking. Values of mangroves for honey, fodder, edible seeds, and medicinal properties have also been documented widely.

Thus mangrove forests play both, mitigation and adaption functions in the changing climate.

But unfortunately mangroves are being rapidly destroyed all over the world, at a higher rate than tropical forests. The range of anthropogenic pressures on mangroves are on a constant increase.  For example, Southeast Asia, which has 22% of the total mangrove cover in the world – the largest share amongst all the 124 countries in the world – faces severe pressure from commercial shrimp farming and charcoal making. Every year thousands of tons of shrimps are exported to the western markets. Looked at another way, this means transporting carbon to these countries, as shrimps are reared at the cost of cutting down thousands of hectares of mangroves. Due to the cutting down of mangroves, the wet soil dries up very quickly, releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, at a substantially higher rate, as mangroves have more carbon in their soils. Estimates suggest that a range of between 150 million to 1 billion tons of CO2 is emitted annually due to the destruction of mangrove forests globally. All these are important factors to consider when pushing the agenda forward to include mangroves in climate change mitigation and adaptation frameworks.

In this context, RECOFTC’s work in promoting community based conservation of mangrove forests in Pred Nai village, Trat Province on Thailand’s eastern sea board (through its Thailand Country Program) is an important intervention and contribution to promoting a participatory approach in the conservation and management of mangroves. The Thailand Country Program of RECOFTC continues to work in Pred Nai village and has recently initiated a grassroots level, community based learning center there. This network of natural resources and environmental conservation initiatives links and establishes communication between concerned units at the provincial level and community members who play a vital role toward natural resource conservation in Trat. These efforts also promote policy support for local authority decentralization, and provide technical and technological support to local officers on natural resources management planning, and strategies on strengthening community self-management. This is an important initiative to better understand the roles of mangroves in local livelihoods and also for climate change mitigation and adaptation at the local level.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mangrove carbon and shrimp ponds in the Philippines

Linking pink shrimps, green mangroves and blue carbon

Mangroves stores carbon in both their trees and their soils. Research is urgently needed to understand the true cost of mangrove deforestation and to ensure the protection of these valuable ecosystems. Photo: Phil's 1st Pix
  - by Cecilia Schubert -

In the Philippines there is a manual for anyone interested in starting up their own fishpond. You simply “go to the mangrove, cut it down and dig a fish pond. You then put the fish in and feed them". There is no reference to sustainability or the value of mangroves for local communities.

But this is how livelihoods works - people want to survive. They therefore think about the short-term benefits instead of the potential long-term negative effects. So said Jurgenne Primavera, Chief Mangrove Scientific Advisor, Zoological Society of London at the “Mangroves under pressure: Forgotten wetlands in the changing climate” discussion forum held during Forest Day in Doha.

Greatest carbon footprint in the world - Shrimp farming in mangrove ponds

Aquaculture, including shrimp cultivation, puts a lot of pressure on our mangrove systems and is one of the primary reasons for mangrove deforestation. “Eat a shrimp from a mangrove pond, and in your mouth you have the greatest carbon footprint in the world!” said Boone Kauffman, Research Professor at the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Cutting down these natural systems releases high amounts of carbon and depletes storage capacities. Leaving coastlines bare also puts people people living in and around the coast in a very vulnerable position. A healthy mangrove can in fact reduce the vulnerability of coastal people, including smallholder farmers, by acting as a physical barrier against sea level rises and storm water surges, which may become increasingly common.

The interesting thing about mangrove systems is that in addition to its trees, they possess soils similar to those found in peatlands, which means that mangroves, just like peatlands, store huge amounts of carbon. There has been a lot of discussion about deforestation of inland forests, but mangroves have up to now been ignored. There is great potential to expand existing frameworks to include them as well, emphasised Boone Kauffman. However as shown with the textbook example from the Philippines, there is a need to further educate people about their long-term benefits and to engage local community members in protection services.

Finding the true value of mangroves key for preservation

To ensure that mangroves are recognised as the important natural resource that they are; better information dissemination about their value is needed, but also laws, and correct estimations of the carbon that they store. Much more work is needed, before the rate of mangrove deforestation is curbed. Especially important will be finding out the true cost of mangrove deforestation and seeing how much mitigation co-benefits mangroves actually contribute. Blue carbon, carbon stored in water and vegetable living near or in water, is an area with little research on how it can be captured and estimated.

Story link: