26 July 2019 was International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem – or Mangrove Day, for short! People and organisations celebrate the importance and wonder of these special ecosystems and the work being done to protect them. One such project was announced by the UN Environment Programme earlier in the week, and it’s all about using carbon credits to help to protect mangroves.
Mangroves are trees that grow in the intertidal zone (the area of the shoreline that is covered at high tide and exposed at low tide) of some tropical coastlines. They have distinctive, funny looking roots that stretch into the water. These roots slow the water down, causing sediment (like mud) to settle and creating the perfect hiding and breeding place for fish. They also help to prevent flooding of coastal areas and, crucially, to store carbon.
Carbon storing refers to keeping carbon in such a form that it is essentially locked away, and is not going to be released into the atmosphere as CO2, which is a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. The soils of mangrove forests, which settle and are stabilised by the funny mangrove roots, are packed full of carbon. When these forests are destroyed all of that carbon gets released into the atmosphere as CO2.
Because of their threatened status and importance in combating climate change, stabilising coastlines, and providing a source of food and income for many communities, governments and organisations are trying to protect mangrove forests.
The Vanga Blue Forests Project in Kenya, aims to do this by trading carbon credits for mangrove conservation. This essentially means that the community will earn money for maintaining and protecting the mangroves, because it is valuable as a carbon store. The community has been able to put this money towards important every day services such as schools, healthcare and having access to drinking water.
This project will conserve 4000 ha of mangrove and support the income of over 8000 people in the local area. That’s in addition to helping to fight the battle against climate change, habitat loss, biodiversity loss and coastal erosion. It’s a win, win win win win!
To find out more, check out the UN Environment Programme’s press release here, including a video to show the importance and impact of this project.