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LOOKING AT NATURE’S ROOTS FOR DEALING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE

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 (1). 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 (2), 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” (3). 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 carbon in soils and delay the decomposition of organic matter, which leads to the accumulation of large amounts of carbon that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions (4,5).

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 (6,7,8), equivalent to 7,131 barrels of oil or 346,574 gallons of gasoline consumed (9). This presents a great opportunity to offset CO2 emissions (10). 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 (11,12).

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 (13), 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 (14,15). 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. This is 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.

Resources:
  1. Arias-González, J.E., Rivera-Sosa, A., Zaldívar-Rae, J., Alva-Basurto, C., Cortés- Useche, C., 2016. The animal forest and its socio-ecological connections to land and coastal ecosystems. In: Rossi, S., Bramanti, L., Gori, A., Orejas, C. (Eds.), Marine Animal Forests. Springer, Switzerland, http://dx.doi.org/10. 1007/978- 3- 319- 17001- 5_33- 1. 
  2. Gattuso, J.-P., A.K. Magnan, L. Bopp, W.W.L. Cheung, C.M. Duarte, J. Hinkel, E. Mcleod, et al. 2018. “Ocean Solutions to Address Climate Change and Its Effects on Marine Ecosystems.” Front. Mar. Sci. 5: 337. doi.10.3389/fmars.2018.00337.
  3. Howard, J., hoyt, S., Isensee, K., Telszewski, M., Pidgeon, E. (eds.) (2014). Coastal blue Carbon: Methods for assessing carbon stocks and emissions factors in mangroves, tidal salt marshes, and seagrasses. Conservation International, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, International Union for Conservation of Nature. Arlington, Virginia, USA. 
  4. Sumaila, U.R., T.C. Tai, V. Lam, W. Cheung, M. Bailey, A.M. Cisneros- Montemayor, O.L. Chen, et al. 2019. “Benefits of the Paris Agreement to Ocean Life, Economies, and People.” Science Advances 5 (2). eaau3855. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aau3855.
  5. IPCC. 2018. Global Warming of 1.5°C: An IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C above Pre-Industrial Levels and Related Global GHG Emission Pathways, in the Context of Strengthening the Global Response to the Threat of Climate Change, edited by J. B. R. Matthews. Geneva: World Meteorological Organization.
  6. Fatoyinbo T, Feliciano E., Lagomasiano D, Lee S K, Trettin C (2017) Estimating Mangrove Aboveground Biomass from Airborne Lidar Data: A Case Study from the Zambezi River Delta
  7. Donato D, Kauffman J B, Murdiyarso D, Kurnianto S, Stidham M, Kanninen M (2011) Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics. Nature Geoscience NGEO1123
  8. Komiyama A, Ong J E, Poungparn S (2008) Allometry, biomass, and productivity of mangroveforests: A review. Aquatic Botany 89.
  9. EPA (2019). Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2017. Chapter 3 (Energy), Tables 3-13, 3-14, and 3-15. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. EPA #430-R-19-001 (PDF)
  10. Hoegh-Guldberg. O., et al. 2019. ‘‘The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action.’’ Report. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. Available online at http://www.oceanpanel.org/climate
  11. Alongi, D. 2014. Carbon cycling and storage in mangrove forests. Annual Review of Marine Science 6:195-219.
  12. Paz-Pellat, F., J. M. Hernández-Ayón, R. Sosa-Ávalos y A. S. Velázquez-Rodríguez. (Editores). 2019. Estado del Ciclo del Carbono: Agenda Azul y Verde. Programa Mexicano del Carbono. Texcoco, Estado de México, México. ISBN: 978-607-96490-7-4. 716 p.
  13. Spalding, M. 1997. The global distribution and status of mangrove ecosystems. Int. Newslett. Coast. Manage 1:20 -21.
  14. MEA. 2005. Millenium ecosystem assessment: Ecosystems and human well‐ being synthesis. Washington, DC: Millenium Ecosystem Assessment.
  15. Hutchison, J; Spalding, M, and zu Ermgassen, P (2014) The Role of Mangroves in Fisheries Enhancement. The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International. 54 pp.

 

 

 

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