Field of Science

Mangroves - Rich in carbon

Mangroves are a bunch of different trees that all grow in the same estuarine habitat throughout the tropics and subtropics. Generally mangroves are considered scruffy sort of forests occupying valuable coastal real estate, so it comes as no surprise that some 30-50% have been destroyed. It's no wonder why people think this way; they're muddy inhospitable places (for people) what with the stilt roots and all. This is particularly unfortunate because one of the primary reasons for destroying mangroves is for aquaculture, particularly shrimp, but mangroves are the place where many species reproduce and where the productivity of coastal fisheries is derived from. This is truly a case of robbing peter to pay paul; terrifically short sighted. Mangroves also play an important role of protecting coast lines against storms and even tsunamis. Now a study of mangroves shows that they are one of the most carbon rich of tropical forests probably because the saturated soils result in slow decomposition. So destroying mangroves puts more carbon back into the atmosphere than other forests, and mangroves take more carbon out of the atmospshere than other forests. So when you add that to the rest of the equation, conservation and restoration efforts (along with educational programs) makes great sense.


meristemi said...

Education is mandatory. I've been in southern Senegal last month, in the Casamance area. Mangroves are severely affcted by climate change of course (increased salinity due to lower precipitations) but also by bad habits by local people: roots are cut to gather oysters and trees are fell to obtain wood used to cook and dry fishes (for commercial purposes). Many islands in the Sine Saloum and in the Casamance deltas are already completely devoid of mangroves and the ongoing reforestation efforts are hampered by the slow growth of these trees. To preserve is always better.

Nevertheless it's been a pleasant journey, and mangrove honey is exquisite :-)

The Phytophactor said...

Couldn't agree more with meristemi's comment. Link provided shows some restoration efforts in Thailand where clearly was done for aquaculture, but their coastal fisheries are so valuable. No one seems to realize that one is being traded for another of lesser value.
Also seen a whole area cleared for a pleasure craft marina. Makes you want to scream.