AsianScientist (Nov. 20, 2018) – Scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found that coastal vegetation such as mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes may be effective habitats to mitigate carbon emissions. They published their findings in Biology Letters.
Coastal vegetation, known as a blue carbon ecosystem, can grow fast and has the ability to accumulate organic carbon in the water-saturated soil that surrounds it. Therefore, blue carbon vegetation like mangroves can store carbon more efficiently, in a way that other ecosystems such as tropical rainforests are not able to.
In this study, researchers found that nations with large coastlines could rely on coastal vegetation ecosystems to further counteract their fossil fuel emissions. They revealed that for Nigeria, Colombia and Bangladesh, which are among the top 50 fossil fuel-emitting countries in the world, mangroves alone mitigated more than one percent of their national carbon emissions in 2014.
“In 2014, Colombia had a mangrove surface cover of around 1,700 square kilometers and generated carbon emissions of 23 million tons every year,” explained Dr. Pierre Taillardat, the first author of the study who conducted the research while at the NUS Department of Geography, in conjunction with the NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute.
“Our study suggests that mangroves mitigated almost 260,000 tons of these emissions annually. If national carbon emissions were to be reduced and mangroves protected and restored, this percentage would become even greater.”
Furthermore, mangroves were found to be a source of atmospheric carbon in Malaysia because the stored carbon is remobilized when mangroves are converted to other land-uses. Similarly, in Indonesia, mangroves only mitigated 0.4 percent of the national carbon emissions in 2014 because mangrove deforestation offset much of the carbon soaked up by this ecosystem.
However, co-author Assistant Professor Massimo Lupascu noted that if mangrove deforestation was stopped, coastal vegetation could potentially mitigate around 1.6 percent of the natural carbon emissions of Malaysia. In Indonesia, it would be even more impactful, mitigating approximately 2.6 percent of manmade carbon emissions, he said.
The results suggest that the conservation and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems is a direct way to mitigate the effects of climate change, in addition to the other benefits that these ecosystems provide to people.
Ultimately, this research could influence how individual countries uphold their end of the Paris Agreement, which states that nations must remove as much carbon as they emit by 2100. The researchers believe that expanding blue carbon ecosystems could make this goal more achievable.
Source: National University of Singapore; Photo: Pierre Taillardart.
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