Rehabilitating mangrove forests may help combat climate change

Twenty hectares of old, abandoned fish ponds have been rehabilitated into mangrove forests in Tiwoho, in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi.

Their efficiency in capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere is being put to the test by researchers, in the hopes the rehabilitation process can help mitigate the effects of climate change and restore the provision of ecosystem services, such as fisheries, provided by healthy mangroves.

“The issue of climate change is very real, and mangroves play an important role in ecosystems as absorbers of carbon,” says Rahman Dako, Head of the Multi-stakeholder Mangrove Management Working Group (KKMD) in Gorontalo, Indonesia.

Mangrove ecosystems are able to capture and store more carbon per unit area from the atmosphere than most other forests. They also keep sediment in place, protect populated areas from wild weather systems, and provide essential habitat for many valuable fisheries species.

“We want to come up with an economic value of how much carbon this area has sequestered and stored since rehabilitation,” says Clint Cameron from the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University.

“We’ll then compare the rehabilitated mangrove areas with old fish ponds that haven’t been rehabilitated, to see the difference in the amount of carbon in the soil between the two sites.” Because the team knows when the old fish ponds were first rehabilitated, they can also work out how the carbon stocks are changing year-by-year as the mangroves regrow and carbon in the soil is buried.

This is the first ecological mangrove rehabilitation project in Indonesia, according to Rio Ahmad from Blue Forests, an Indonesian non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has been monitoring and researching the structure of mangrove forests alongside Charles Darwin University.

The rehabilitation involves partners from Indonesian universities, NGOs, and the local community.

Credit for banner image: Rignolda Djamalludin.