Study: Mangroves are vital carbon store

April 4, 2011 at 8:42 PM
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HILO, Hawaii, April 4 (UPI) -- The world's coastal mangrove forests are capable of storing more carbon than almost any other forest on Earth, U.S. government scientist say.

Researchers from the U.S. Forestry Service research stations, along with scientists from the University of Helsinki in Finland and the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, analyzed the carbon content of 25 mangrove forests across the Indo-Pacific region and found that mangrove forests store up to four times more carbon per acre than most other tropical forests around the world, a USFS release said Monday.

"Mangroves have long been known as extremely productive ecosystems that cycle carbon quickly, but until now there had been no estimate of how much carbon resides in these systems," Daniel Donato, a research ecologist at the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station in Hilo, Hawaii, said.

"That's essential information because when land-use change occurs, much of that standing carbon stock can be released to the atmosphere," he said.

The mangrove forest's ability to store such large amounts of carbon can be attributed, in part, to the deep organic-rich soils in which the trees thrive, researchers said, and in fact mangroves have more carbon in their soil alone than most tropical forests have in all their biomass and soil combined.

"When we did the math, we were surprised to see just how much carbon is likely being released from mangrove clearing," Donato said, suggesting mangroves should be strong candidates for programs aiming to mitigate climate change by reducing deforestation rates.

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