Response to ‘Ocean Carbon Central to Climate Challenge’

Dear Editor,

I would like go comment on this timely report, “Ocean Carbon Central to Climate Challenge,” which came out this week concerning climate change. We at Mangrove Action Project have been working for over 17 years to promote the ecological value of mangrove forest wetlands.

It has been an uphill battle to counter the negative image of the once mislabeled “muddy, mosquito infested wastelands” Governments finally began recognizing their importance and passed laws to protect the mangroves, but laws that were rarely enforced, and so more and more mangroves were lost to shrimp farms, tourist development, golf courses, oil exploitation, urban and agricultural expansion and a multitude of other unsustainable,, short-sighted development pressures.

According to latest area estimates, less than 15 million ha of mangroves still exist- that is less than half the original mangrove cover, and much of this is degraded or threatened by development. According to recent FAO estimates the annual rate of loss is around 1%, which would mean around 150,000 ha are being lost annually today.If we could translate this loss into loss of carbon storage ability, as spotlighted in this report from IUCVN, it should ring some loud alarms for those who have ears to listen for suddenly mangroves, sea grasses and coastal marsh lands are being seen for far more than their original estimated work.

If coastal ecosystems sequester 50 times more carbon than inland tropical forests, then these are obviously the key links we must recognize to help us effectively and immediately reverse the present dangerous direction of climate change. We must emphasize these points raised by this IUCN study in addressing the need to halt further losses of our marine coastal wetland areas. Their value is constantly increasing from what we once valued them. All of our past economic valuations have fallen far short of the reality, mainly because of lack of knowledge as to the amazing ecosystems we have for too long taken for granted. Those muddy swamps are possibly now our ultimate remedy to the planetary sickness caused by rampant human folly.

MAP is working with local communities and partnering with grassroots NGOs to conserve and restore mangroves, promoting the Ecological Mangrove Restoration approach as the most effective, long-term approach to mangrove restoration. We are trying to discourage the popular, but ineffective way of hand planting mangrove propagules- usually one species- that is still the most popular approach, which is establishing low-biodiversity mono-cultures or plantations, instead of healthy, biodiverse mangrove wetlands.

Now is the time to take these issues to those who will be sitting in Copenhagen next month in what could be a last attempt to curb our civilization’s penchant for unlimited and unreasonable growth.

For the Future with Mangroves,

Alfredo Quarto,

Executive Director Mangrove Action Project

PO Box 1854

Port Angeles, WA 98362-0279

USA (360) 452-5866

[email protected]