Victor Engel – Mangrove research in the Florida Everglades

Lessons can be learnt from mangrove research in the Florida Everglades

Victor Engel, a scientist from the Florida Everglades National Park in the USA joined a workshop held by CIFOR in April 2011, in Bali on Wetland Ecosystems in Indonesia.

The workshop focused on new research that is unveiling the importance of mangroves and peat swamp forests to climate change.

Studies have quantified the levels of carbon stored in these unique forests both in the trees themselves and in the soil where they grow. The levels are alarming and the large-scale destruction of mangrove and peat forests in Indonesia is contributing much higher amounts of greenhouse gases than other types of tropical forests.

Engel presented methods and results from his studies in Florida to his Indonesian and International colleagues and hopes that the findings can help mangrove research in South East Asia and particularly Indonesia, which has 23% of the worlds remaining mangrove forests.

Some of his research is on the cutting edge of climate change science. The ‘tracer experiment’, as he calls it in a video interview from the workshop (watch above), has proved new methods in calculating carbon budgets in complex ecosystems such as mangroves. The experiment used a gas tracer bubbled into the mangrove river systems that allows carbon flux measurements throughout the ecosystem and the influence of the mangroves on the carbon levels.

“When you talk about a carbon budget,” Engels states in the video, “it’s an open system, you have fresh water inputs from inland and you have the ocean coming in, everything is mixing around, so it is hard to quantify carbon budgets with traditional methods. That is why we used the tracer experiment”