Page 14 - CIFOR AR2011

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Landmark findings show mangroves
key to fighting climate change
After a flight to a seaside town in Indonesia, a group of scientists
travels 20 hours by boat to an inland riverine site where they
spend a week, waiting for each day’s low tide to clamber
across a web of roots and knee-deep mud to reach a remote
mangrove forest.
So began the grunt work that led CIFOR to pivotal findings –
pointing to mangroves as ideal repositories to keep carbon out
of the atmosphere and sequestered in forests – that are having
significant implications for local and global policies.
The scientists unfurl measuring tape and jot down the
circumferences of trees. They unload some 12 kg of stainless steel
rods, bore them into the ground, and pry them out to collect
core samples: at one metre deep, dirt that is gritty with leaf bits,
and at more than 11 metres deep, earth that is black and slick as
grease.
Slathered in mosquito repellent to guard against dengue fever
and malaria, the scientists work quickly as the tide rises. They
swim back to the boats. Back in the laboratory, they analyse the
carbon in thousands of soil samples from across Southeast Asia.
They crunch their numbers and are astounded by the results:
mangroves store three to four times more carbon than most
tropical forests.
Mangroves occur along the coasts of some 118 countries, but up
to half of them have been destroyed in the past half century.
A spike in greenhouse gases has warmed Earth by 0.7°C over
the past century, brewing an ever more turbulent blend of
storms, floods, landslides, forest fires, temperature extremes and
droughts.
‘Mangroves are being destroyed at an alarming rate and this
needs to stop,’ said Daniel Murdiyarso, CIFOR Senior Scientist.
‘There is a lack of awareness of the full implications of mangrove
loss for humankind. There is an urgent need for governments
to acknowledge their importance and develop better policies to
ensure their protection.’
Since the mangrove findings were published in 2011, they
have received worldwide attention from the media, general
public and scientific community. The findings will be fed into
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change processes as it
revises its guidelines for greenhouse-gas inventories in wetlands.
To further enhance the impact of the findings, the Tropical
Wetlands Initiative for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
(TWINCAM) was developed by CIFOR in partnership with research
institutions, donor communities and regional academic partners.
This includes networking and capacity building across the globe
to assess carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions from
tropical wetlands.
The topic also received attention at the national level. In Indonesia
– home to the biggest area of mangroves in the world, with close
to 3 million hectares scattered across the archipelago – CIFOR
hosted a journalist workshop on wetlands. Some 17 national
journalists attended the workshop and the subsequent field trip
to a mangrove forest, and more than 30 stories were published in
major newspapers across the country.