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  • Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

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This collection of 12 stories from women and men in nine countries in different parts of Africa shines a light on the efforts of communities, some of them decades-long, in restoring degraded forests and landscapes. The stories are not generated through any rigorous scientific process, but are nonetheless illustrative of the opportunities communities create as they solve their own problems, and of the many entry points we have for supporting and accelerating community effort. The stories show that leadership, social capital and cooperation, clear property rights/tenure, and supportive governance are important for successful community-based restoration. From the perspectives of communities, “success” is not only about the number of trees planted and standing over a certain terrain: it is also about the ability to secure and enhance livelihoods; to strengthen existing community relationships and to build new ones with other actors; to develop a conservation ethic among younger generations; and, in some cases, to expand the rights of excluded individuals and groups. This collection is about amplifying the voices of local people in global policy debates.

Foreword. Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Story 1. Holding back the desert: One farmer’s story of restoring degraded land in the Sahel region in Burkina Faso

Story 2. Women gaining ground through reforestation on the Cameroonian coast

Story 3. Building resilience to climate change through community forest restoration in Ghana

Story 4. Thinking in tomorrow: Women leading forest restoration in Mt Kenya and beyond

Story 5. Mikoko Pamoja: Carbon credits and community-based reforestation in Kenya’s mangroves

Story 6. Rights, responsibilities and collaboration: The Ogiek and tree growing in the Mau

Story 7. Restoring Madagascar’s mangroves: Community-led conservation makes for multiple benefits

Story 8. Flood recovery, livelihood protection and mangrove reforestation in the Limpopo River Estuary, Mozambique

Story 9. Regaining their lost paradise: Communities rehabilitating mangrove forests in the drought-affected Saloum Delta, Senegal

Story 10. From the grass roots to the corridors of power: Scaling up efforts for conservation and reforestation in Senegal

Story 11. Taming the rising tide: Keeping the ocean at bay through community reforestation on Kisiwa Panza island, Tanzania

Story 12. Shaking the tree: Challenging gender, tenure and leadership norms through collaborative reforestation in Central Uganda

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  • Creating blue carbon opportunities in the maritime archipelago Indonesia

Creating blue carbon opportunities in the maritime archipelago Indonesia

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Key messages

  • Preserving intact ecosystems is financially more effective than restoring degraded ones. We therefore propose a moratorium on further conversion of mangroves. By doing so, there is the potential to generate $3 billion (USD) in abatement costs annually.
  • A science-backed plan, including mapping, for restoring priority degraded blue carbon ecosystems will build climate change resilience and improve livelihoods.
  • Activating the existing regulatory framework and its governance at provincial level is essential to meet national low carbon development goals and align with global agenda.
  • Opportunities for funding restoration include public and private partnerships, and new innovative finance solutions. Income from the blue economy (fishing, shipping and eco-tourism) in productive zones could also contribute to restoration.
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  • Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

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Fishing boats rest on the shore at a research site in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

As global conservation awareness about mangroves, salt marshes and other coastal ecosystems continues to grow, seagrass meadows are being left at the bottom.

Hidden underwater, seagrass meadows may cover less than .2% of the ocean floor, but they are responsible for an estimated 10% or more of the ‘blue’ carbon sequestered by the ocean each year – storing only slightly less carbon per hectare than well-known mangrove ecosystems. And unlike forests, which rerelease the carbon they store after decades or centuries, seagrass meadows can hold onto their carbon stocks for millennia.

Lung-like in function, 1 square meter of seagrass can generate 10 liters of oxygen daily to its surrounding waters while filtering out pollutants and adding in nutrients that feed its inhabitant manatees, turtles, seahorses, sharks and dugong – as well as fisheries. A recent study says seagrass meadows are grounds for a fifth of the world’s top 25 fisheries, making them crucial to global food security and livelihoods.

Yet, these ecosystems are rapidly deteriorating, their rate of decline increasing from .9% before 1940 to 7% since 1990. In total, an estimated 29% of all seagrass meadows have vanished. Scientists say this rate is equal to the loss of a football field’s worth of seagrass every half hour.

In consequence, seagrass carbon stocks can be – and often are – released in an instant. Warmer waters from climate change, or the drop of an anchor, can unearth carbon that has been stored for thousands of years.

At the recent Blue Carbon Summit in Jakarta, researchers examining seagrass in Indonesia shared findings on these under-researched ecosystems, and what needs to be done to ensure their longevity going forward.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet

A patch of mangroves leans against the wind and waves in Rio Tumbes, Peru. Photo by B. Locatelli/CIFOR

FROM THE LAND TO THE SEA

About 100 million years ago, species of flowering plants migrated from terrestrial to aquatic environments, maintaining their roots, veins, and ability to produce flowers and seeds as they went. More closely related to palms and lilies than their much-simpler seaweed doppelgangers, seagrass reproduces via hydrophilic pollination and exchanges nutrients and gases with water through its leaves.

Now, some 72 species of seagrass exist around the world, varying in adaptation across different latitudes, water temperatures, tides, wave exposure and sediment substrate types of the sea floor. They can make their home in sub-tidal depths of up to 40 meters, in mud and silt, in sand coarse or fine, in coral alive and dead, and in areas with other competing species.

Subsequently, the way seagrass stores carbon also varies from place to place, dependent on similar factors. If a meadow is composed of one or many seagrass species, the carbon storage is affected. If the species are big or small, the carbon storage is affected. If the water gets warmer, or size of sand particles gets larger, or a migratory species comes passing through, the carbon storage is affected.

Protecting, managing and restoring seagrass meadows, then, begins with knowing the site-specificity of species and carbon storage. Off the south coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, for instance, Rohani Ambo-Rappe, Faculty of Marine and Fisheries at Hasanuddin University, found that meadows with high exposure to waves stored more carbon in the aboveground biomass of its seagrass, while low-exposure zones saw more carbon stored in roots below the sediment surface.

Meanwhile, in West and East Java, Dr. Devi Choesin from the Bandung Institute of Technology found that most carbon was stored below the sediment across the board, though with a great degree of variability. Given the wide number of contingencies at play, research methods for seagrass, she said, are difficult to standardize, contributing in part to the relative lack of data on seagrass so far.

“How much seagrass is left in Indonesia? If you ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different answers,” said Tonny Wagey, Executive Director of the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund.

Read also: Governing mangroves: From Tanzania to Indonesia

FACTORING IN THE INVISIBLE

The reasons for the decline of seagrass range from the usual suspects – water pollution, plastic waste, eutrophication, tourism development – to the less obvious, such as overgrazing of sea turtles, waves and water currents.

But because of the extant lack of attention and scientific focus on these ecosystems, they have yet to be formally included in major global initiatives and platforms, such as REDD+ and the UNFCCC agenda.

Within the agenda of Indonesia – which has the second-largest seagrass landscape globally, after Australia – the ambitious national goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2020 could use the help of seagrass, speakers at the Summit said, rather than putting all of the pressure on land-based ecosystems.

Sustainable management and development of seagrass in sectors such as fisheries can also contribute to the country’s Low Carbon Development initiative, as well as local enterprises making use of seagrass in its more traditional purposes: for fertilizer, furniture and building materials, and medical bandages and supplies. To meet President Joko Widodo’s bid to reduce plastic waste 70% by 2025, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Natural Resources said that seagrass along with cassava can be used in lieu of plastic in drinking water bottles.

In the ‘white papers’ being developed by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partners to inform future Indonesian policy – a foremost outcome of the Summit – seagrass is included in the first recommendation, highlighting its crucial role in keeping pace with sea level rise, an important step toward changing the tide for these ecosystems.

Watch: Protecting North Sumatran mangroves, supporting biodiversity, people and the world

By Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Fishing boats rest on the shore at a research site in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

As global conservation awareness about mangroves, salt marshes and other coastal ecosystems continues to grow, seagrass meadows are being left at the bottom.

Hidden underwater, seagrass meadows may cover less than .2% of the ocean floor, but they are responsible for an estimated 10% or more of the ‘blue’ carbon sequestered by the ocean each year – storing only slightly less carbon per hectare than well-known mangrove ecosystems. And unlike forests, which rerelease the carbon they store after decades or centuries, seagrass meadows can hold onto their carbon stocks for millennia.

Lung-like in function, 1 square meter of seagrass can generate 10 liters of oxygen daily to its surrounding waters while filtering out pollutants and adding in nutrients that feed its inhabitant manatees, turtles, seahorses, sharks and dugong – as well as fisheries. A recent study says seagrass meadows are grounds for a fifth of the world’s top 25 fisheries, making them crucial to global food security and livelihoods.

Yet, these ecosystems are rapidly deteriorating, their rate of decline increasing from .9% before 1940 to 7% since 1990. In total, an estimated 29% of all seagrass meadows have vanished. Scientists say this rate is equal to the loss of a football field’s worth of seagrass every half hour.

In consequence, seagrass carbon stocks can be – and often are – released in an instant. Warmer waters from climate change, or the drop of an anchor, can unearth carbon that has been stored for thousands of years.

At the recent Blue Carbon Summit in Jakarta, researchers examining seagrass in Indonesia shared findings on these under-researched ecosystems, and what needs to be done to ensure their longevity going forward.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet

A patch of mangroves leans against the wind and waves in Rio Tumbes, Peru. Photo by B. Locatelli/CIFOR

FROM THE LAND TO THE SEA

About 100 million years ago, species of flowering plants migrated from terrestrial to aquatic environments, maintaining their roots, veins, and ability to produce flowers and seeds as they went. More closely related to palms and lilies than their much-simpler seaweed doppelgangers, seagrass reproduces via hydrophilic pollination and exchanges nutrients and gases with water through its leaves.

Now, some 72 species of seagrass exist around the world, varying in adaptation across different latitudes, water temperatures, tides, wave exposure and sediment substrate types of the sea floor. They can make their home in sub-tidal depths of up to 40 meters, in mud and silt, in sand coarse or fine, in coral alive and dead, and in areas with other competing species.

Subsequently, the way seagrass stores carbon also varies from place to place, dependent on similar factors. If a meadow is composed of one or many seagrass species, the carbon storage is affected. If the species are big or small, the carbon storage is affected. If the water gets warmer, or size of sand particles gets larger, or a migratory species comes passing through, the carbon storage is affected.

Protecting, managing and restoring seagrass meadows, then, begins with knowing the site-specificity of species and carbon storage. Off the south coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, for instance, Rohani Ambo-Rappe, Faculty of Marine and Fisheries at Hasanuddin University, found that meadows with high exposure to waves stored more carbon in the aboveground biomass of its seagrass, while low-exposure zones saw more carbon stored in roots below the sediment surface.

Meanwhile, in West and East Java, Dr. Devi Choesin from the Bandung Institute of Technology found that most carbon was stored below the sediment across the board, though with a great degree of variability. Given the wide number of contingencies at play, research methods for seagrass, she said, are difficult to standardize, contributing in part to the relative lack of data on seagrass so far.

“How much seagrass is left in Indonesia? If you ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different answers,” said Tonny Wagey, Executive Director of the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund.

Read also: Governing mangroves: From Tanzania to Indonesia

FACTORING IN THE INVISIBLE

The reasons for the decline of seagrass range from the usual suspects – water pollution, plastic waste, eutrophication, tourism development – to the less obvious, such as overgrazing of sea turtles, waves and water currents.

But because of the extant lack of attention and scientific focus on these ecosystems, they have yet to be formally included in major global initiatives and platforms, such as REDD+ and the UNFCCC agenda.

Within the agenda of Indonesia – which has the second-largest seagrass landscape globally, after Australia – the ambitious national goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2020 could use the help of seagrass, speakers at the Summit said, rather than putting all of the pressure on land-based ecosystems.

Sustainable management and development of seagrass in sectors such as fisheries can also contribute to the country’s Low Carbon Development initiative, as well as local enterprises making use of seagrass in its more traditional purposes: for fertilizer, furniture and building materials, and medical bandages and supplies. To meet President Joko Widodo’s bid to reduce plastic waste 70% by 2025, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Natural Resources said that seagrass along with cassava can be used in lieu of plastic in drinking water bottles.

In the ‘white papers’ being developed by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partners to inform future Indonesian policy – a foremost outcome of the Summit – seagrass is included in the first recommendation, highlighting its crucial role in keeping pace with sea level rise, an important step toward changing the tide for these ecosystems.

Watch: Protecting North Sumatran mangroves, supporting biodiversity, people and the world

By Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Calls for greater momentum on forest initiatives, from REDD+ to ecotourism, at APRS 2018

Calls for greater momentum on forest initiatives, from REDD+ to ecotourism, at APRS 2018

Tribudi Syukur village in Lampung, Indonesia, is seen from above. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR
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Tribudi Syukur village in Lampung, Indonesia, is seen from above. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing region on earth, and home to the world’s three largest cities. Yet it also contains 740 million hectares of forests, accounting for 26 percent of the region’s land area and 18 percent of forest cover globally.

More than 450 million people depend on these forests for their livelihoods.

Through the theme “Protecting forests and people, supporting economic growth,” the third Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit (APRS) examined how the region’s economic and social development can better integrate with climate change and carbon emissions reduction goals.

Following the first APRS held in Sydney in 2014 and the second in Brunei Darussalam in 2016, this year’s was the largest yet, held in the Javanese cultural center of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. From April 23–25, more than 1,200 representatives from academia, civil society, business, government and research institutions gathered for panels, discussions, workshops and field trips.

Regional leaders formed the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership (APRP) and its biannual Summit to help realize the global goal of ending rainforest loss by 2030, as well as reduce poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), carbon emissions through REDD+, and climate change through the Paris Agreement – as discussed in the Summit’s first day of high-level panels.

Read also: FTA at the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit

“Since the summit in Brunei, I am happy to see substantial progress on REDD+ both regionally and globally,” said Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg in the opening ceremony. “We need to maintain this momentum and step up the pace of change if we are going to protect our forests and our people while securing economic growth.”

As the host country – supported the Australian Government, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) – Indonesia highlighted its recent environmental achievements.

“In the last three years, we have managed to reduce the [annual] deforestation rate from 1.09 million hectares to 610,000 hectares, and 480,000 million hectares in 2017,” said Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya.

“We realize that forests are a major contributor to carbon emissions, mainly due to forest fires – especially in peatlands. Forests represent 18% of our national emissions reduction targets and are expected to contribute to over half of our [Paris Agreement] targets.”

CIFOR’s Daniel Murdiyarso speaks during a session on restoration and sustainable management of peatlands at the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit 2018. Photo by U. Ifansasti/CIFOR

Minister Nurbaya also pointed to community and social forestry as a major theme of the Summit. Indonesia has set a target to allocate some 12.7 million hectares of land for use by communities partaking in five social forestry schemes. Nurbaya said she hopes other countries are similarly prioritizing community-based forestry management.

Community forestry was one of the sub-themes highlighted in the second day’s expert panels, alongside restoration and sustainable management of peatlands, mangroves and blue carbon, ecotourism and conservation of biodiversity, production forests, and forest finance, investment and trade. Issues in focus are detailed below.

PRIVATE FINANCE

Speakers throughout the Summit echoed the need for increased private-sector support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and policies that help enable this.

Companies need more incentives – and assurance of profitability – if they are to balance their business activities with ecological protection and support to local communities. Similarly, there needs to be proof of returns in order to increase private investment in environmental efforts.

The commitment of USD 500 million by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was highlighted as a best-practice example. Announced in May 2017, the pledge is now being used to back select business proposals that creatively address climate change.

Juan Chang, a GCF senior specialist in forest and land use and panel speaker at the Summit, said the Fund’s forestry and land use portfolio of 10 funded projects around the world so far includes 2 REDD+ projects.

Within GCF’s portfolio as a whole, around a third of its USD 3.7 billion goes to projects in the Asia-Pacific region.

REDD+ AND FORESTS

This year’s APRS comes roughly a decade after the UNFCCC COP13 in Bali gave birth to REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), an initiative that – much as its name says – seeks to lower global carbon emissions by preserving tropical forests.

As its goals broadened to give more attention to sustainable forest management and carbon stocks, REDD became REDD+, which now has numerous development and research projects running throughout the region.

Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry, HE Siti Nurbaya, opens the 3rd Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit. Photo by U. Ifansasti/CIFOR

Around 2 billion hectares of Asia-Pacific forests are degraded, and research experts expressed that production forests – such as those used for bioenergy – hold new opportunities for REDD+ implementation.

Contrasting this, however, was the difficulty some countries’ delegates said they’re facing in setting the many pieces in place required to uphold such a detailed effort as REDD+.

While Indonesia and Papua New Guinea now have much of the REDD+ architecture up and running, both countries have met roadblocks in implementing emissions measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) systems as well as results-based payments mechanisms.

Emma Rachmawaty, Director of Climate Change at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said, “We are in the process of establishing a financial institution to manage financing for REDD+. [Until then] we cannot implement results-based payments for REDD+.”

Danae Maniatis from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) analogized REDD+ framework construction with that of a building.

“Pillars for REDD+ need to be really strong at the readiness phase,” she said. “If you have a house that has a roof but nothing else, would you use it? No. You need it to be functional. So, the challenge that we face is: how do you take these elements and make them functional?”

Read also: Social forestry impacts local livelihoods in Indonesia

NEW WAYS TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE

Mangroves and blue carbon – carbon captured and stored in oceans and coastal areas – have been hot topics of late.

“There is one ecosystem that has been close to my heart for a long time, that encompasses all the issues you can think of for forests: peatlands and mangroves,” said CIFOR Director General Dr. Robert Nasi.

“Although they represent a small percentage of forests, they are probably the richest and most carbon-rich ecosystems in the world – and the most threatened. I can only encourage and commend Indonesia for all the efforts they’re doing in terms of restoring and rehabilitating peatlands and mangroves.”

Comparatively little research has been done on these ecosystems so far. But the vast carbon sinks of Indonesia’s mangroves – the largest in the world, spanning 3.5 million hectares – have begun to make their way onto the archipelago’s national agenda, potentially contributing to the country’s commitments to the Paris Agreement and becoming grounds for financial support to local communities through payment for ecosystem services (PES).

Another way to link local communities to financial institutions and global markets? Ecotourism – responsible recreational activities that encourage conservation and preserve biodiversity.

Panelists called for philanthropic foundations and development organizations to give this growing sector more attention. In the realm of sustainable development business ventures, ecotourism is an on-the-ground way to aid land rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation while still turning a profit – however small that profit may be.

This echoed Dr. Nasi’s opening ceremony statement that the Asia-Pacific region is “a region of superlatives and a region of many contrasts,” with a vast array of businesses, landscapes, socioeconomic levels and governments.

Yet, everyone attending the summit “comes together for one reason: because forests matter.”

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Protecting North Sumatran mangroves, supporting biodiversity, people and the world

Protecting North Sumatran mangroves, supporting biodiversity, people and the world

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Mangroves are a massive storehouse of carbon. The mangroves of Indonesia, with its vast expanse of islands and coastlines, cover an area of around 3 million hectares. These tangled trees and the swampy soil they grow in store approximately 3.14 billion tons of carbon, hence they play an important role in climate change mitigation.

Indonesia is home to about one-third of the global storage of mangroves, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist Daniel Murdiyarso says. In North Sumatra, scientists measured the amount of carbon in both protected and degraded mangrove forests lining the province.

Originally published at CIFOR.org.

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  • The jumbo carbon footprint of shrimp

The jumbo carbon footprint of shrimp

Mangroves grow along the coast of West Bali National Park, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR
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A mangrove ecosystem is seen in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

Is eating a kilogram of shrimp worth 1600 kilos of greenhouse emissions?

You’re having dinner with your date. You both order the ‘surf and turf’ special: a shrimp appetizer and a steak. You might not know it, but the carbon footprint of your meal is mind-boggling massive.

If the beef and seafood came from the tropics, where mangroves once grew, the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the two dinners alone would be roughly equivalent to driving from Los Angeles to New York City and back – a massive 1632 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

Or, to put it another way, those greenhouse gas emissions would weigh about as much as the car you drove to the restaurant.

To come up with these numbers, scientists – including some CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) – spent seven years working in muddy mangrove forests from Southeast Asia to Central America.

Across the tropics, mangrove forests are being cleared to make way for agriculture and aquaculture. Found on the frontier of land and sea, their seaward sides are converted to shrimp ponds, while their drier edges are claimed and drained to become rice fields or cattle pastures.

The scientists examined 55 sites where that conversion is happening, in Indonesia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. It’s the first time that a carbon-footprint study has taken into account the greenhouse gas emissions that result from deforestation.

When the researchers made their final calculations, even they were surprised.

Read also: The jumbo carbon footprint of a shrimp: carbon losses from mangrove deforestation

For every kilogram of beef produced on land that was converted from mangrove forest, 1440 kilograms of climate-altering greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere. For shrimp (more widely known as ‘prawns’ in the U.K. and Australia), it’s even worse: 1603 kg of emissions per kilo of crustacean.

“We were astounded that the carbon footprints were as high as they were,” says lead author Boone Kauffman, a mangrove expert from Oregon State University.

A Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) researcher stands in a research site for the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP), in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

OUT-SIZED EMISSIONS

So why the out-sized emissions?

Mangrove forests store a lot more carbon than terrestrial tropical forests, because they sequester a huge amount in the soil – in some cases up to 98 percent of the carbon stocks in a mangrove ecosystem can be underground.

When those forests are cut and drained, carbon isn’t just lost through the breakdown of leaves, twigs and branches. All that carbon in the soil is also released – and not just at the surface. The study found that deforestation could release carbon stored up to three meters below ground.

Read also: Focus on mangroves: Blue carbon science for sustainable development

That’s why mangroves may account for as much as 12 percent of the total emissions for all tropical deforestation, Kauffman says, even though they only make up 0.6 percent of the land area occupied by tropical forests.

“You’re losing centuries of carbon sequestration in just a few years of land use,” says Kauffman.

That’s the other big problem with these conversions – shrimp ponds in particular have very short life spans. Disease, soil acidification, pollution, and market conditions tend to limit their use to just three to nine years (the scientists assumed a conservative nine years for the purposes of the study, meaning that the actual carbon footprint of some shrimp may be even higher).

Once the area is exhausted, the ponds are abandoned – and the farmers move on to next patch of mangroves. 

A SIMPLE QUESTION

CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso’s research in Indonesia has shown just how much carbon mangrove ecosystems can lock away.

“They store twice as much carbon per hectare compared with terrestrial forests – and in some cases five to six times as much,” he says.

New research is showing that emissions can be reduced during mangrove conversion by limiting the exposure of excavated soil to the air, but finding ways to reduce rampant mangrove deforestation is even more important.

Murdiyarso helped to conceptualise the carbon footprint study with Kauffman.

They wanted to find a way to make the climate impact of mangrove deforestation more easily understood.

“When scientists talk about the role that deforestation plays in climate change, scientists tend to talk about the global picture – petagrams, gigatons, a billion metric tonnes of carbon – and the public can’t really grasp that,” Kauffman says.

“So instead of scaling up to the global, we decided we would try to scale it down to an individual dinner – to report the influences of deforestation at the personal scale.”

Watch: Is your shrimp cocktail destroying the planet?

Mangroves grow along the coast of West Bali National Park, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR

To make the calculations, the researchers compared the carbon stocks in shrimp ponds or cattle pastures with nearby patches of intact mangrove forest.

That was harder than it sounds – they had to clamber through aerial mangrove roots to measure trees, gather every stick of downed wood, and collect muddy soil samples to take back to the lab.

“It brings the child out in you if you like being in the mud,” jokes Kauffman.

But that hard work had a very serious objective.

“We spent seven years on this project to make sure that we got it right,” Kauffman says.

“We are faced with such unprecedented environmental problems, particularly the threats of climate change and its possible environmental and social ramifications.”

“So it’s really important that we convey our science in a way in which the public can comprehend, so they can see how their daily activities affect climate change, and they can manage their lives accordingly.”

The result is a study that uses solid, real-world data from a broad range of sites across the tropics, with the aim of making people think about one simple question: Is a kilogram of shrimp worth 1600 kilos of greenhouse emissions?

By Kate Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Boone Kauffman at [email protected] or Daniel Murdiyarso at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Focus on mangroves: Blue carbon science for sustainable development

Focus on mangroves: Blue carbon science for sustainable development

Working on the study on Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Sigit Deni Sasmito for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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CIFOR scientists collect mangrove leaves to assess the above-ground carbon stock. Photo credit: Kate Evans/CIFOR

By Leona Liu, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Mangrove forests have been recognized for a variety of important functions, such as buffering coastal zones from tropical storms and inundation, providing nutrients to coral reefs, and serving as rich habitats for fish and wildlife.

With three million hectares of mangrove forests lining its 95,000-kilometer coastline, Indonesia is a key battlefield when it comes to raising awareness about the potential of ‘blue carbon.’

The world’s archipelago harbors nearly a quarter of the world’s mangroves. But Indonesia, like most of the world, is losing its coastal forests at an alarming rate. The country lost 40 percent of its mangroves in the past three decades.

‘Coastal blue carbon’ is known as the carbon stored in tidal wetland ecosystems, which includes tidally influenced forests, mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows. It is kept within soil, living biomass and non-living biomass carbon pools. ‘Coastal blue carbon’ is a subset of ‘blue carbon’, which also includes ocean blue carbon that represents carbon stored in open ocean carbon pools.

“Indonesia is losing 52,000 hectares of mangroves per year, or the equivalent of three football fields of mangroves per week,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, Principal Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Working on the study on Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Sigit Deni Sasmito for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Murdiyarso was one of three speakers at the recent event titled, Mangrove ecosystems in Indonesia: A strategic resource for local sustainable economy and adaptation to climate change, held on the occasion of World Wetlands Day. The event was hosted at the Italian Cultural Institute in Jakarta with the support of the Embassy of Italy.

Carbon powerhouses

Coastal blue carbon ecosystems are the planet’s greatest carbon storehouses. They are capable of capturing and storing excessive atmospheric carbon with burial rates 20 times greater than any other terrestrial ecosystem, including boreal and tropical forests.

But when cleared or degraded, blue carbon ecosystems can transform into worrisome emission sources. Currently, global greenhouse gas emissions from unsustainable coastal development amount to one billion per year.

One-fifth of that (200 million tons CO2-eq) is produced by the country of Indonesia alone- the equivalent of 40 million fewer cars on the roads, according to Murdiyarso.

“The rate of conversion in Indonesia is very high at 2 percent,” he said. “And recent findings show that the loss of mangroves is not only caused by fish, shrimp and aquaculture development, but also by oil palm plantation development.”
Mangrove forests on Lake Tabarisia. Mamberamo Raya, Papua. Photo by Mokhammad Edliadi for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

This finding is surprising, as the saline environment of mangrove ecosystems is hardly conducive to growing palm oil. But that hasn’t stopped the trend.

“This is now happening in North Sumatra and on the east coast of Riau near Pekanbaru,” said fellow event speaker Nyoman N. Suryadiputra who heads the Indonesian arm of the NGO Wetland International.

“My worry is that they will do the same in Papua and West Papua. This province has the most mangrove forests in Indonesia, with a shallow layer of peat underneath. It’s a very dangerous situation because many big oil palm companies are invading the area. If they drain the forests, the peat will subside, the sea level will rise, and it cause significant inundations for the local communities.”

The value of blue carbon

Given its large carbon stocks, mangroves hold high potential economic value under climate adaptation and mitigation schemes like the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism.

“If the price of one ton of carbon is valued at $5 USD, and if Indonesia could halt the current emissions from degrading coastal blue carbon ecosystems, this would represent $6 billion USD in gains from the carbon market”, said Murdiyarso.

“Compare this to the current revenue generated by Indonesia’s shrimp export industry ($1.2 billion USD). The conversion of mangrove forests to shrimp ponds brings only a fraction of the income that could be earned from the carbon market. Policymakers should consider this and realize the value of coastal ecosystems,” he further explained.

Co-benefits derived from the restoration and protection of mangroves, such as biodiversity, ecotourism, non-timber forest products and watershed protection, are additional financial incentives for policymakers to consider.


According to Murdiyarso, adaptation to the impacts of climate change should be mainstreamed into the political and economic development planning and implementation process.

“In Indonesia, there is a lack of national guidelines on how to conserve and restore mangroves. The only regulation [Presidential Regulation No. 73/2012] on the national mangrove ecosystem management strategy is insufficient because it is merely coordinative. Within the regulation, it specifies who should do what but it doesn’t say anything about how,” he said.

More science and initiatives are needed

More research on blue carbon is needed to meet the targets outlined by the global development agenda. According to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Report, oceans and wetlands remain extremely vulnerable to environmental degradation, overfishing, climate change and pollution.

SDG 14, “Life below water”, aims to conserve and use marine resources for sustainable development. One of its targets is that by 2020, marine and coastal ecosystems should be sustainably managed, protected and restored.

The recent Paris Agreement, which required all parties to put forward their best efforts through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), represents a rare and important window of opportunity to include blue carbon in national climate strategies.

Today, only 50 countries have recognized the value of blue carbon in their NDCs. To much surprise, Indonesia- the world’s largest archipelago – has not recognized mangrove conservation in its National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation (RAN-API).

“We need to focus on blue carbon science to support policymakers with credible scientific information to make better decisions about the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources,” said Murdiyarso, in representing CIFOR, one of the founding members of the International Partnership for Blue Carbon (IPBC).

Launched at the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum at the COP21 in Paris, the partnership aims to connect the efforts of governments, research organizations and non-government organizations on integrating blue carbon into climate policies and agendas.

It was created by the governments of Australia, Indonesia and Costa Rica, alongside various partners such as the Blue Carbon Initiative, GRID-Arendal, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Office of the Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner, the Global Change Institute, and CIFOR.

For more information on this topic, please contact Daniel Murdiyarso at [email protected].
This research was supported by USAID
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Protecting Tanzania’s mangroves

Photo: Jean-Marc Liotier/CIFOR
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Photo: Jean-Marc Liotier/CIFOR
Photo: Jean-Marc Liotier/CIFOR

By Kate Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Lush mangrove forests line the meandering channels of the Rufiji River Delta, south of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam on the east coast of Tanzania.

It’s one of the largest mangrove areas in Africa, and like mangroves everywhere, they’re under threat. Mangrove trunks are being cut for timber, poles and burned for charcoal; meanwhile, trees are being cleared to make way for rice paddies.

Tanzanian law strictly protects mangroves given that they are the property of the State. Though the government initially encouraged people to settle in the Delta in the early 1970s, strict protection means local women aren’t supposed to collect firewood from the forest (though they often do) and every December through January since the 1990s, agents from the Tanzanian Forest Service (TFS) have burned farmers’ temporary stilt huts (madungu) and new rice farms, in an attempt to discourage further deforestation.

But this conservation model isn’t optimal, say scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR.)

Rufiji’s population is growing. Locals increasingly rely on mangrove products for their livelihoods, and allow outsiders to come in and illegally harvest timber and charcoal to sell in the capital. Massive flooding in the 1990s changed the river’s course, expanding the area suitable for rice farming – while immigration into the delta has simultaneously increased demand for agricultural land.

“The threats are increasing and the government alone cannot deal with all these threats,” says CIFOR’s Baruani Mshale. Even if the enforcement budget was vastly improved, it would still be a battle, he says.

“People will always come up with creative ways on how they can access and use the mangroves, regardless of how much protection the government imposes.”


ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS

But that doesn’t mean the mangroves are doomed.

The solution, says Mshale, is to give locals a reason to defend them from outsiders and manage them sustainably. This can be done by granting communities more rights and responsibilities, and involving them in the protection and rehabilitation of the forests while ensuring that they generate livelihood benefits from doing so.

The Tanzanian government has begun to acknowledge that strict protection doesn’t work, and experiments are currently unfolding in the Rufiji River Delta.

Three different models of community engagement are being trialled – with varying degrees of success. Mshale is the lead author of a new report for USAID conducted by researchers from CIFOR and the University of Dar es Salaam that compares and analyses these approaches.

MODEL 1: INDIVIDUAL FARMING PERMITS

The first is a system of individual farming permits between villagers and TFS.

Farmers apply for renewable one-year licenses allowing them to continue farming rice in exchange for facilitating the natural regeneration of mangrove trees on their plots. Once the trees reach a certain height, their shade renders rice paddies less productive, and farmers must move elsewhere to repeat the process.

This scheme has not been a success, says Mshale. It is one-sided – imposing a lot of conservation responsibility on farmers in exchange for few rewards. It also creates insecurity.

“People know that once the mangroves regrow, they’ll be kicked out,” he says – so there is a perverse incentive for farmers to intentionally prevent mangrove recovery.

The written contracts have also been problematic.

“Many people in the delta are illiterate, and they fear anything that is signed. They felt like they are getting tricked – perhaps there is something written there that they do not understand, and they’ll be made to pay fines later.”

After so many years of harsh policies, the people don’t always trust the government’s intentions. Unsurprisingly, many communities refused to sign these contracts.

MODEL 2: GROUP REHABILITATION

Group rehabilitation of mangroves is another approach that is being pioneered in the Rufiji River Delta, with the support of the UNDP and UNEP.

Local collectives of 15-30 men and women are assigned areas of mangrove forest to restore, and are paid for each day they spend replanting or weeding.

Communities initially embraced the project, but Mshale says some villagers complained to his team about favouritism, saying they felt excluded from the scheme – even though TFS says it would be expanded to ensure benefits are shared.

More importantly, the program doesn’t give people a sense of ownership over the forest.

“These people are providing casual labour, but they don’t have any other rights over the areas that they are replanting. So the moment you stop paying them, they won’t be able to come and work for you.”

What’s more, its future is uncertain because the program relies heavily upon financial support from UNEP and UNDP. Once the funds dry up, it won’t be able to be sustained, says Mshale.

MODEL 3: JOINT FOREST MANAGEMENT

The most promising approach, according to CIFOR research, is the Joint Forest Management scheme currently being trialled in the delta as part of the Tanzanian participatory forest management program.

In four Rufiji villages, TFS has negotiated with individual communities to draw up plans for sharing the costs and benefits of managing the mangrove forest. Though the state retains ultimate ownership of the mangroves, this is the only scheme that transfers some decision-making power to local people – and that means it’s the one most likely to succeed compared to the others, says Mshale.

So far, the communities have embraced it.

“It’s in its infancy, so they have not seen any benefits yet – but they are very hopeful” – and TFS is committed to making it work, says Mshale.

“They’re not old-school forestry technocrats who view local people as a threat to conservation – they see that they can work with the communities and achieve conservation goals. They realise that strict protection alone is not going to work.”

EMPOWERING LOCAL WOMEN

“What’s needed now is proper management and making sure that the benefits and costs are equitably and fairly distributed among community members.”

In particular, that means ensuring women’s meaningful participation in decision-making in a culture where women traditionally are meant to defer to men and tend to stay silent during group meetings.

That could mean providing a space for women to meet alone to debate ideas among themselves, before bringing their concerns to the broader community.

Women often spend more time in the mangroves than men, and have detailed knowledge about their biology and uses, says Mshale.

“Women need to benefit from the schemes that are being implemented, and have their voices and concerns taken into account – without being dominated and bullied by men.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Baruani Mshale at [email protected] or Esther Mwangi at [email protected].
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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Blue carbon science for sustainable coastal development

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