12 April 2011

Mangroves, seagrasses 'lock up' carbon: IUCN report

Mangroves, seagrass meadows and other coastal wetlands remove carbon from the atmosphere and lock it into the soil, where it can stay for millennia.
Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii)
Rare Beccari's seagrass growing at mangroves of Kranji Nature Trail.
When these are destroyed, huge amounts of carbon are released. “For the first time we are getting a sense that greenhouse gas losses from drained and degraded coastal wetlands may be globally significant and that drained organic-rich soils continuously release carbon for decades” says a spokesman for the report.

A recent report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and wetland specialists ESA PWA found that, unlike terrestrial forests, these marine ecosystems are continuously building carbon pools, storing huge amounts of “blue carbon” in the sediment below them. When these systems are degraded due to drainage or conversion for agriculture and aquaculture, they emit large and continuous amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.

The report studied 15 coastal deltas. Of these, seven were found to have released more than 500 million tons of CO2 each since the wetlands were drained, mostly in the past 100 years. By comparison, Mexico’s carbon dioxide emissions for 2007 were just over 470 million tonnes.

The report highlights that the current rates of degradation and loss of coastal wetlands which are up to four times that of tropical forests. Destruction of about 20 percent of the worlds’ mangroves has led to the release of centuries of accumulated carbon. This has also disturbed the natural protection against storm surges and other weather events.

The full report: http://www.iucn.org/www.worldbank.org/icm

Media articles on the report on wildsingapore news. 

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See also lots of articles and comments about coastal wetlands as a carbon sink in the Blue Carbon Portal.

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