Tag: mangroves

Keep it in the ground – mangrove carbon, that is

Keep it in the ground – mangrove carbon, that is

“Keep it in the ground” has been the motto of climate change campaigners for years. Until now this was in reference to crude oil – but thanks to research recently published in Nature, this could equally mean soil carbon. The research, led by Conservation International scientists, has identified carbon-rich landscapes, including mangrove forests, that contain so much carbon that their conservation is pivotal to avoiding a climate catastrophe – they are calling this ‘irrecoverable carbon’.

Carbon stored by ecosystems is lost to the atmosphere when those ecosystems are destroyed. When the ground is disturbed, as happens when forests are cut down, the soil becomes exposed to the air and the organic carbon is degraded into carbon dioxide. In mangrove forests, deforestation is happening at an alarming rate globally. Mangroves are cut down to make way for shrimp farming, marinas, coastal development and as a source of timber for building and firewood. They are also threatened by pollution, sedimentation and climate change.

Climate scientists have warned that we must reach net-zero emissions by 2050 if we are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Keeping natural carbon sinks – as carbon-rich habitats are known – intact is a vital part to achieving this goal. We must take action to reverse the decline of these habitats to keep that carbon in the ground.

It’s hard to imagine just how much carbon is stored in these habitats. The numbers become unimaginably huge – what does 260 billion tonnes, the amount of this ‘irrecoverable carbon’ – look like? In 2019, global fossil fuel emissions reached nearly 37 billion tonnes CO2, or 10 billion tonnes of carbon. That means that 26 years worth of global emissions, at 2019 emission levels, are locked away in our ecosystems. Losing them would catapult us 26 years closer to climate catastrophe – and it is clear that we don’t have that kind of time on our hands to lose.

Reforestation World Plant 670 Mangroves

Students from Gazi Primary School take part in the planting of 670 mangrove seedlings

670 mangrove seedlings were planted in Gazi Bay in May 2019 thanks to a kind donation from Reforestation World.

In 2017, Reforestation World initiated the annual ‘Draw a Tree, we plant it!’ events to raise awareness of deforestation and engage the public. Participants draw a tree each and choose which of Reforestation World’s chosen reforestation charities around the globe they would like Reforestation World to donate to for their picture. ACES were honoured to have been one of these chosen charities in 2018.

A tree drawn during the ‘Draw a Tree, we plant it!’ event dedicated to ACES’ work in Kenya. Image © Reforestation World

Planting mangroves involves more challenges than planting trees on land, however, and it was not until May 2019 that the environmental conditions were just right to plant the seedlings. Despite living among salt water, young trees especially rely on fresh water for their survival. Normally the Kenyan rainy season begins in March, but changing rainfall patterns in 2019 meant that planting was delayed until May. This highlights the very real effects that climate change is having on ecosystems, serving as a reminder of why mangroves are so important for capturing CO2 and protecting the coast from storms and sea level rise.

The Mikoko Pamoja team led a group of students and teachers from Gazi Primary School to plant the seedlings on a section of coast that had been clear-cut before the project began. Seedlings were taken from an exposed area of coastline where they are able to germinate but survival is close to 0%, and transported to the more sheltered planting area.

The exposed location of sections of shoreline allow seeds to germinate, but seedling have low to no chance of survival. These seedlings are transported to the plantation area.

Involving the wider community, particularly children, is an important part of Mikoko Pamoja’s work. By engaging people and helping them to understand the importance of mangrove forests, they are helping to secure the future of the mangroves of Gazi Bay. Many local people cut the mangroves for firewood and building materials, which has led to the loss and degradation of about 30% of Kenya’s mangrove forests. By educating people about their importance, alongside providing alternative timber sources and community development projects, Mikoko Pamoja are helping to stop this decline and help the forests to recover.

We would like to thank Reforestation World for their support in allowing this planting exercise to happen. It has contributed to the forest restoration activities of the Mikoko Pamoja project and engaged the school community in contributing to this work.

Gazi Primary School students ready to plant the mangrove seedlings
Gazi Primary School students and staff who took part in the planting exercise