The importance of mangroves

A report from the National Blue Carbon Project published on Monday represents the findings of a 18 month-long project to investigate the capacity for mangroves to store carbon and offset car emissions.

It is estimated that the mangrove swamps in the UAE offset about 600,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare. Sarah Dea / The National

ABU DHABI // The mangrove has been identified as the plant that offsets most carbon in the Arabian Peninsula.

A report from the National Blue Carbon Project published on Monday represents the findings of a 18 month-long project to investigate the capacity for mangroves to store carbon and offset car emissions.

“What makes the mangroves so special is their ability to stock carbon,” said Ahmed Al Hashmi, director of biodiversity at the Ministry of Environment and Water.

“If we understand the effects on climate change in the UAE we might dedicate more efforts to finding out how much the mangroves can actually offset.”

The concept of carbon stocks, although relatively new, has gained ground in international conservation efforts as a way of encouraging policymakers to declare legislation to preserve natural habitats.

Conservationists and researchers use carbon stocks to discourage the destruction of these habitats, as their eradication would release carbon gases into the atmosphere.

“When you’re cutting down mangrove trees, not only are you destroying environments and natural habitats, but you’re destroying carbon sinks that can mitigate the carbon dioxide that you’re emitting,” said Mariam Harib, an assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Environment and Water.

The mangrove swamps in the UAE are estimated to offset about 600,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare.

The average vehicle emits about 5,000 kilograms of carbon a year, the US Environmental Protection Agency says.

So for each hectare of mangroves preserved, 120 cars driven for an entire year are offset.

There are about 3,000 hectares of mangrove swamp in the UAE, which amounts to offsetting the carbon from hundreds of thousands of cars driven a year.

“The environment doesn’t work on its own, just as an ecosystem, so whenever we do a project or conserve our environment it has an effect on climate change,” said Ms Harib.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Environment and Water are both looking to increase the amount of mangroves.

“We must look at the environment from different perspectives, but projects like this make researchers and scientists from climate change backgrounds and conservationists and biodiversity experts to sit down and draw a linkage,” said Mr Al Hashmi.

The report found that the mangroves in the northern emirates were much larger than the mangroves in other areas.

It also noted that although the mangroves in the UAE are all of one species, the variation in carbon stocks varied widely according to areas.

Dr Stephen Crooks, a lead scientist on the project from the Environmental Scientists Associates, believed the mangrove project had revealed important findings.

“We suggest exploring other opportunities in conservation and restoration of these truly important habitats for storing carbon,” he said.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

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