- Feb 27, 2023
- Coastal Health
Climate change is one of the biggest crises we face globally. Caused in large part by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and concentrations of carbon dioxide, the climate emergency has a profound impact on our planet and all of us who live on it. The effects of climate change and human activities that generate pollution, overfishing and the degradation of habitats have simultaneously affected nature and people. These consequences include the worsening of natural phenomena such as hurricanes and storms, fires, droughts and rising sea levels. Likewise, climate change generates changes in temperature, pH and salinity in the land and oceans, which endangers many ecosystems and all the benefits they generate for society.
Faced with this situation, it is imperative to find and invest in initiatives that mitigate climate change. Nature has a very effective mechanism for this that we often do not think about: marine and coastal ecosystems. These ecosystems, like mangrove forests, can capture and store significant amounts of carbon, known as “blue carbon”. In fact, they can do so with an efficiency up to 10 times greater than that of terrestrial forests, thanks to the ability to store in soils and delay the decomposition of organic matter, which leads to the accumulation of large amounts of carbon to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Each square kilometer of mangrove forest has the capacity to absorb the equivalent of the carbon emissions generated by 66,500 passenger cars driven during one year, equivalent to 7,131 barrels of oil or 346,574 gallons of gasoline consumed. This presents a great opportunity to offset CO2 emissions. The mean carbon stock in mangroves is estimated to be 956 Mega grams of carbon per hectare (Mg C ha-1), stored in sediments, leaves, branches, stems and in the pronounced roots of the mangroves.
For this reason, the protection and restoration of mangroves has been identified as a key nature-based solution to face climate change. Mangroves cover approximately 75% of the coastline along the tropical and subtropical coasts, making them one of the largest carbon pools for this region.
Beyond storing large amounts of carbon, these marine and coastal ecosystems are vital to communities in coastal areas as well as communities further from the coast. Mangroves help to generate food resources and medicinal products, improve water quality and protect coasts from damage caused by natural phenomena such as storms, hurricanes and erosion. These ecosystems also provide income for millions of people who live along the coastline through fishing and tourism, due to their cultural value and great natural beauty.
Betting on the protection and management of these ecosystems is a firm step that we must take to curb climate change and the devastating effects it has worldwide. A step that will also take care of the health of the coasts, will help all of us who depend on them and will allow us to continue enjoying their natural beauty through tourism.