Blue forests - mangroves, seagrass beds and saltmarshes - provide a bounty of ecosystem services for millions of coastal people around the world. They protect coasts, regulate water quality, provide habitat for countless marine species, and supply food and raw materials. However, these critical goods and services will be lost completely if their deforestation and degradation continue at current rates of 1-2% per year.
What is blue carbon?The value of ‘blue forests’ to coastal communities is matched only by the extraordinary amount of carbon stored in their biomass and sediments, known as ‘blue carbon’.
Blue forests sequester six times more carbon per unit area than undisturbed Amazonian rainforest. They represent only 3% of global terrestrial forest cover, yet 55% of all carbon captured in the world is blue carbon. The loss of blue forests account for up to 19% of global emissions from deforestation and annual economic losses of $6-42 billion.
Linking coastal ecosystems to the role they play in mitigating climate change through carbon finance can incentivise their protection and safeguard the livelihoods that they support. However, blue carbon has not been fully included in emissions accounting or protocols, and blue carbon standards for carbon markets are still in their infancy.
We are working to change this by researching the carbon dynamics of blue forests ecosystems, helping to develop robust accounting methodologies for blue carbon projects, and supporting community-led mangrove conservation initiatives in Madagascar.
Blue forests in MadagascarMadagascar’s 5,600 km coastline is home to one of the most extensive shallow marine habitats in the western Indian Ocean.
The country’s west coast hosts the fourth largest extent of mangrove forests in Africa - nearly 2,800 km2, equivalent to 392,000 football pitches - and extensive seagrass beds.
Blue forests are vital to the survival of thousands of coastal communities in Madagascar, who are among the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change in the world.
Building the foundations for mangrove REDD+The generation of carbon credits through the conservation and restoration of blue forests could help to alleviate poverty and support biodiversity conservation in Madagascar’s coastal areas.
We are contributing to the science required to make blue carbon projects a reality, and building the capacity of local communities to establish and manage their own mangrove conservation initiatives.
Accurate quantification of mangrove carbon stocks is fundamental to putting a financial value on the conservation of these habitats. Our research is establishing the exact nature and dynamics of carbon sequestration and fluxes in Madagascar’s mangroves to ensure the proper valuation of blue carbon credits.
By maintaining strong communications with national institutions, we are establishing mangrove conservation projects that integrate into Madagascar’s national REDD+ strategy.
Our researchOur research priorities stem from our aim to develop blue carbon projects that fulfil the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) standards. These are:
Quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions that can be achieved through mangrove REDD+
- Remote sensing analysis of the historical changes of mangrove forest cover
- Carbon stock measurements within mangrove forests and wetlands
- Analysis of the drivers and underlying causes of mangrove and wetland loss
- Modelling of future mangrove forest and wetland changes
- Research to determine local uses of mangroves
- Establishing socioeconomic baselines and projecting scenarios to evaluate the impacts of REDD+ activities
- Research into climate change impacts on mangrove use and coastal livelihoods, and how to build the adaptive capacity of coastal communities
- Analysis of traditional forest user rights, tenure and laws affecting implementation of REDD+ projects
Building community capacity for REDD+We are working to build the foundations for coastal communities to participate meaningfully in REDD+ and gain an equitable share of the benefits. More than just fulfilling the conditions of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), we believe that REDD+ projects should be driven and managed wholly by local stakeholders.
To bridge the gap between principle and practice, we are investing in building local management capacity. Our team is developing materials for communicating about mangrove REDD+, and running campaigns to raise awareness about these projects. By providing regular updates on our progress to local and national authorities, and engaging community management associations in project planning, we are ensuring a truly participatory approach.
Bundling mangrove ecosystem servicesREDD+ projects can take several years to develop, and take place amidst continued policy and market uncertainty, so we are exploring other ways for communities to benefit from the sustainable management of mangroves in the near future.
In addition to REDD+ activities (conservation of intact mangroves, restoration of deforested areas and improved forestry management), we are also developing ways in which communities can enhance or earn new incomes from mangroves. These include:
- Temporary community-managed mangrove fishery reserves aiming to increase crab, fish and shrimp populations - and improve local incomes
- Sustainable management practices so communities can profit from the sustainable harvesting of mangrove wood
- Long-term shoreline protection through wetland restoration and mangrove reforestation efforts