Protecting Mangroves for the Climate

Posted on July 31, 2012


You know what the bad news is.  We’ve put too much CO2 into the atmosphere which is already tossing the world into a climate tangle and promising even more intense climate tangle to come.  We’re not actually slowing down with pumping still more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, suicidally anxious, it seems, to put Earth’s climate at a rolling boil.

We don’t want to do that.  Really.  If anything, we want to lessen the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, not only by putting less in, but, ideally, by taking some out.

That’s hard to do.  You have to tell people (ever growing populations of people) to move aside to make room for forests, for instance.  And you have to stop those same forests from burning down in the overheated, climate-changed conditions existing now and into the foreseeable future, maybe even releasing more carbon than they store.

Okay, here’s some hopeful news:  blue carbon.  Carbon fixed above ground, say in forests, is called green carbon.  Blue carbon is carbon fixed in the soil by coastal wetland environments such as tidal marshes, sea grasses and mangrove forests.

You can find mangrove forests throughout the tropics, where river waters mix with salt.  Although he might find the water a little salt, Pogo would probably be comfortable in these places.  (Pogo identified the enemy as us a lot time ago, and continues his interest in these things.) While they make up only 0.7% of the world’s forests, mangrove forests can potentially sequester as much as two and a half years of global CO2 emissions.

These forests are presently under slow attack by shrimp aquaculture, fishing and rice growing.  Fortunately, protecting them is relatively inexpensive, between $4 and $10 per ton of CO2, and an integrated approach highlighting biodiversity conservation and protection for local economies can be piggy-backed on the plan for about $1 more.

Protecting mangrove swamps won’t solve our climate problem.  But it is yet another way we can fight back.

See Restoring Mangroves May Prove Cheap Way to Cool Climate – Scientific American

For a more local take, see also Why Saving Marshes Might Save Civilization – The Tyee