31 December 2010

What's so marine about 2011 International Year of Forests?

2011 is designated International Year of Forests with the theme of “Forests for People”, celebrating the central role of people in our world’s forests.
The elements in the design depict some of the many values of forests and the need for a 360‐degree perspective. Forests provide shelter to people and biodiversity; provide food, medicine and clean water; and a vital role in global climate and environment.

At first glance, forests may seem to have nothing to do with seashores. But...

... then I listened to Sharon Chan from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve sharing the idea that we should celebrate our submerged forests as part of this theme! What an awesome idea!
Mangroves at Sungei Api Api next to HDB flats
Mangroves grow next to HDB flats at Sungei Api Api!
And we sure do have some marvellous mangroves in Singapore! I'm still overwhelmed by the B. hainesii discovered at Kranji a few days ago! More about our mangroves on this blog.
Mad about Mangroves! High on the hainesii!

Indeed mangroves are forests of trees that just happen to stand in the sea!

In fact, coastal habitats such as mangroves, seagrass, salt marshes and coastal wetlands provide similar services as terrestrial forests.

And in our part of the world, coastal habitats have an enormous value to people. In a recent report for the East Asian Seas region, nearly three quarters of the region's population depend directly or indirectly on coastal areas, and with 80% of the region's GDP linked to the coastal natural resources.

The East Asian Seas region is home to nearly 80% of global coral species, over 60% of mangrove species, and over 55% of sea grass species. Sadly, important coastal habitats and ecosystems are under pressure with 40% of coral reefs and half of all mangroves having already been lost.

In addition, in the face of climate change, they also protect coasts. Sea level rise is estimated to affect as much as 55%of the population in Vietnam, 26% in Thailand, 18% in the Philippines, and 11% in China. And coastal habitats also play a significant role in carbon sequestration.

There have been suggestions that these coastal habitats far out perform terrestrial forests in terms of carbon sequestration rates,
And in soil-carbon stocks.
From The Economics of Blue Carbon: Preliminary Analysis (pdf) by Roger Ullman of the Linden Trust for Conservation, December 1, 2010 on the Convention of Biological Diversity website.

These coastal ecosystems are behind the idea of "Blue Carbon" and there are efforts to include mangroves in terrestrial forest climate action such as REDD. More about Blue Carbon on the Blue Carbon Portal.

So we can continue to celebrate our marine forests in 2011! More about International Year of Forests on the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity blog.

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