06 April 2011

Mangroves: the "most carbon rich forests in the tropics"

Mangroves store more carbon that almost any other forest on Earth! Let's celebrate mangroves together with other forests, in this International Year of the Forest 2011!
Mangroves at Kranji Nature Trail
Mangrove forest at Kranji Nature Trail

A recent study found that mangroves store up to FOUR times more carbon per acre than most other tropical forests around the world. How do mangroves do this?

Daniel Donato of the US Department of Agriculture's Forest Service in Hilo, Hawaii and an international team of researchers examined the carbon content in 25 mangroves scattered across the Indo-Pacific region.

They found that mangroves stored atmospheric CO2 just as well as land-based tropical forests. Below the water line, they were even more efficient, hoarding five times more carbon over the same surface area. The mangrove forest's ability to store such large amounts of carbon can be attributed, in part, to the deep organic-rich soils in which the trees thrive. In fact, mangroves have more carbon in their soil alone than most tropical forests have in all their biomass and soil combined.
Mangroves at Kranji Nature Trail
Root of the issue: What goes on underground is vital!

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.

Sadly, mangroves are being rapidly destroyed worldwide, with a 30% decline in the past 50 years. Destruction of mangroves accounts for about 10% of carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation, the second largest source of CO2 after fossil fuel combustion, the study found.

Media articles about the study on wildsingapore news.

This article first appeared on the wild shores of singapore blog, which has more posts about mangroves:
See also lots of articles and comments about mangroves as a carbon sink in the Blue Carbon Portal.

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