Indonesia’s mangroves store 3.14 billion tonnes of carbon — the highest in the world. But the continuing rapid deforestation for aquaculture development is endangering another natural storage sink, emphasises the study published in Nature Climate Change (26 July).
Compared with other habitats, mangroves have the ability to store carbon three to five times higher than a traditional forest. Mangrove carbon storage is derived from leaf litter, dead roots and woods that fall on waterlogged soil, trapping the carbons in the water in a slow decomposition rate.
Daniel Murdiyarso, the lead author and a senior researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), says Indonesia is home of one-quarter of the world’s mangroves (2.9 million hectares). But the high rate of mangrove deforestation in Indonesia, at 52,000 hectares per year, mostly due to conversion to shrimp ponds, meant that in the last three decades, Indonesia has lost 40 per cent of its mangrove habitat.
Murdiyarso and his team measured carbon stocks of 39 mangrove sites across Indonesia. Based on their calculation, mangrove deforestation in Indonesia alone contributed to 42 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.
The study says halting this deforestation rate would reduce Indonesia’s carbon emissions by 10-35 per cent.
“Given the global significance of mangroves as large sinks of carbon, preventing mangrove loss would be an effective climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy. [This] should be a high-priority component,” notes Murdiyarso.
Daniel Friess, head of the Mangrove Lab in the National University of Singapore, tells SciDev.Net the study is strong because it uses a robust and tested method developed in part by CIFOR in 2012. The method has been used in other regions as well as in Singapore, Micronesia and the Dominican Republic.
Friess adds the results of the study provide valuable information for mangrove conservation. He believes that efforts to reduce deforestation will surely have a substantial impact on carbon emissions though challenges lie ahead.
“Conserving mangroves is difficult because of many conflicting land uses in coastal zones. There are many ways to conserve mangroves, but key things include strong conservation policies that are well enforced on the ground and that involve local communities who live near, use and manage the mangroves,” he says.
>Link to abstract in Nature Climate Change
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.