Managing Mangroves and Capturing Carbon
For coastal communities, such as those living around Gazi Bay in Kenya, mangrove ecosystems provide key services such as firewood and building poles, fish nurseries, coastal protection and opportunities for tourism.
Credit: Kate Holt
Mangrove forests are also recognised for their role in mitigating climate change, due to their exceptional ability to capture and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Despite these benefits and services, the continued destruction of these forests has become a huge cause for concern. Unsustainable use as firewood and the undervaluing of carbon storage has contributed to the rapid removal of mangroves in recent decades. Finding new ways to value these services offers the potential to engage stakeholders in their long-term conservation.
Since 2004, Earthwatch has worked with Professor Mark Huxham of Edinburgh Napier University and his team on a community-led mangrove research and restoration project at Gazi Bay. The project has engaged a range of stakeholders in pioneering mangrove plantation experiments that measure ecosystem functions, including carbon stocks held within.
These data have not only informed understanding of how best to restore mangroves, but also allowed the team to pioneer use of carbon credits as a way to fund mangrove conservation and social development. This year, the project reached its target for the sale of carbon credits, raising $14,000 for a community fund, which has been allocated to new clean-water wells in the surrounding villages.
Building on the research and restoration work at Gazi Bay, a new project has recently begun just south of Gazi to explore how fish use mangrove forests as nursery sites, with the aim of understanding the best ways of managing these ecosystems.