Mangrove forests play a significant role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Coastal ecosystems like mangrove forest, salt marsh, and seagrass meadows are termed as blue carbon ecosystem because of their capacity to absorb and capture carbon.
A study by researchers from the University of the Philippines explored the many benefits of mangrove forests both to the environment and livelihood of coastal communities.
Researchers found that mangrove forests in Southeast Asia are shrinking and are replaced by more profitable farming practices like aquaculture production, rice farming, and recently oil palm plantation.
The loss of mangroves forest means that their most important ecosystem service of capturing carbon is also lost. A hectare of mangrove forest can capture a kiloton or 1000 tons of carbon.
Aside from its carbon capture capacity mangroves offers an abundance of other benefits and value such as enriching coastal waters, produce commercial forest and marine products, stabilize coastlines, regulate tidal actions, the study says.
There is considerable value in preserving mangrove forests. Traditional mangrove management tends to be government-centred which is not effective in addressing deforestation and how it can affect the livelihoods of the community dependent on it.
The study suggests that including local stakeholders and paying them to manage and preserve mangrove forests is a better and more sustainable option. A scheme they call payment for ecosystem services (PES) where local people are paid to do mangrove restoration and protection. Vietnam was the first country to take advantage of this scheme, according to the study.
For this strategy to be successful, the study identified some governance obstacles that need to be addressed first. These include:
- a clarification of tenure rights,
- provision of financial incentives to offset mangrove-degrading livelihoods,
- development of a trading system for blue carbon credits,
- the inclusion of local needs and interest in PES programs and other coastal plans, and ecological consideration in plantation development.
Southeast Asia hosts some of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.
To address the problem of climate change the region needs to mitigate GHG emissions and to adapt to its effects.
A strong government policy, funding, and implementation together with commitment from the community will ensure that mangrove forests can be preserved and protected, and its capacity to capture carbon, protect coastal areas and other services can be maximised.
To read the entire study, click on the link below:
PHOTO CREDIT: Mangroves in Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines by Voltaire Gumban