There’s a new nature-based carbon project in the city, and it’s catching the attention of companies with ambitious net zero goals. Her name? Mangroves, a type of tree species and coastal forest ecosystem native to the tropics and subtropics.
Blue carbon, the carbon captured by oceans or surrounding ecosystems, has huge untapped potential for carbon sequestration and Verra, the verified carbon standard, told Yale360 that the blue carbon market is about to take off. . According to the article, Verra has granted 970,000 credits to blue carbon projects. And mangrove projects are set to increase dramatically as they have become all the rage with big companies with ambitious carbon initiatives. Over the past year, Gucci, Apple, and Procter & Gamble have announced mangrove protection and restoration projects to help tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
In July, P&G partnered with Conservation International on the Palawan Protection Project in the Philippines, which will protect 31 mangrove species on nearly 110,000 acres of forest on the Philippines’ largest island.
In early 2021, Gucci unveiled the Muskitia Blue Carbon REDD + project to protect 12,350 acres of mangroves in Honduras. And Apple, also in collaboration with Conservation International, is working to preserve a 27,000-acre mangrove forest in Colombia. According to Conservation International, this project is also the site of the first fully accounted carbon offset credit for a mangrove.
Why are mangroves important?
Mangroves are massive carbon sinks – between four and ten times more carbon can be sequestered by mangroves compared to terrestrial forests, according to Conservation International.
“At high level, [mangroves] are salty and wet, which keeps the carbon from breaking down, ”said Jen Howard, senior director of Conservation International’s blue carbon program.
Saltwater prevents organic matter from producing methane as it breaks down, and the mangrove’s complex root systems capture upstream sediment and hold it in place, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. There is also a resilience benefit: Mangrove roots can greatly reduce erosion and act as a buffer during hurricanes and storms absorbing waves and damaging winds. A UC Santa Cruz study found that mangroves prevent more than $ 65 billion in property damage each year by protecting against storm surges. Beyond that, mangroves are magnificent hubs of biodiversity – homes for fish, crabs, birds and hundreds of plant species.
“Where do you find tigers and manatees in the same habitat?” asked Karen Douthwaite, Senior Oceans Program Specialist at the World Wildlife Fund. “No, you don’t have that very often.”
But we have lost a lot of mangroves over the past 40 years. From the 1980s to the early 2000s, 20 percent of the world’s mangroves were lost, driven by expansion linked to tourism development, agriculture and aquaculture, pollution and climate change . That rate has slowed recently to around 2% loss each year, according to a 2018 study in Nature.
Why are we losing mangroves?
The reasons we lose mangroves are unique and unlike many factors contributing to forest loss elsewhere. Saving them also requires different tactics. While terrestrial forests are threatened by logging, timber production and forest fires, mangroves are much more dependent on the water systems around them. The hydrology of the area is extremely important to the success of the mangrove.
“You have to consider both what is happening on the coast where you find [mangroves], but you also have to look upstream, ”Douthwaite said.
According to her, developing infrastructure inland could interrupt the flow of sediment and water to the grove or a farm could release toxic pollution upstream that affects mangroves downstream. Both present dangers to mangroves.
You have to consider both what is happening on the coast where you find [mangroves], but you must also look upstream.
Rising sea levels and urban development are causing what experts call “compression”. Normally, if water levels rise, mangroves can move inland and accumulate sediment vertically, so habitat remains at the right ratio between underwater presence and presence above. the water. In fact, normally, sea level rise would actually increase the amount of carbon stored by mangroves. But if the mangrove is trapped between rising ocean levels and human development, the mangrove has nowhere to go and is found entirely under water, effectively squeezed out.
In addition, unprecedented cold temperatures in the tropics can lead to massive loss of mangroves, as they are very sensitive to frost. According to Jon Dale, senior director of forest restoration in the lower Rio Grande Valley for US Forests, Texas lost most of its mangroves in the 1980s due to an unprecedented drop in temperatures. These types of cold events occur more frequently due to climate change and should be considered in mangrove restoration projects.
Capital in the form of carbon offsets can help protect the mangroves we’ve left behind and spread new ones, but their emission must be done with solid science, experts say, including Tiffany Troxler, associate professor in the Earth Department and Florida International environment. University and consultant for Carbon Direct, a developer of carbon offset projects, and Howard.
“We are trying to get these [mangrove] projects to be able to produce carbon offsets, “Troxler said.” But often what isn’t as available is the rigorous monitoring and verification that needs to be done to make sure you’re getting the carbon that you are trying to store.
Apple and Conservation International tried to do this for the first time.
The most recent carbon credit from the bloc
Today, Conservation International announced that a mangrove forest along the coast in Cispatá, Colombia is the first to have its carbon reserves fully accounted for with a new credit developed specifically to address the unique carbon sequestration potential of mangroves. Before today, mangroves were still part of the carbon offsetting market, but they were valued using terrestrial forestry methods that underestimated the carbon stored in the roots and soil of the mangrove, where it is found. 60% of the value of carbon, according to Howard.
“The carbon measurement technique [in mangrove soil] has been around for a long time; it just wasn’t built into those processes to make it into a financial mechanism, “she said.” What was needed was to take all the science and then translate it into a structure that would allow a financial benefit.
The two-year project in Cispatá was funded in collaboration with Apple to promote innovative blue carbon solutions. The mangrove swamp covers more than 29,000 acres and Conservation International aims to eliminate 1 million metric tonnes of emissions over the next 30 years for the Cispatá project. A small portion of the carbon credits produced by this project will be withdrawn on Apple’s behalf, but according to Howard, most of Apple’s funding was part of a philanthropic donation. (Apple did not respond when asked to comment on this story.)
In addition to having greater carbon storage capacity, there are other ways that mangroves and the resulting carbon credits differ from traditional forest credits.
“I think where we run into problems is when a land approach is applied to a coastal system,” Howard said. “Then you end up with less than ideal restoration plans.”
Unlike forests, hydrology restoration is an integral part of mangrove restoration, and this process can be costly. Project developers may need to look for possible upstream infrastructure and obstructions, and involve stakeholders miles from the mangroves to restore water flow. But once they do, a lot of intense and expensive tree planting is not necessary for a mangrove project.
“Often, if you just put the right conditions in place,” Douthwaite said, “the mangroves can sort of restore themselves effectively. But if that river system isn’t in place, then you could restore the mangroves. but without the sediment. go down and be deposited, it just won’t work. “
Once the hydrology has been reestablished and the mangrove spends the optimal time underwater, the propagules, the long, pointed part of the mangrove that contains the seeds and breaks off to propagate new mangrove trees, can be collected and thrown overboard. They will take root.
As with any carbon credit, the three key words are additionality, permanence and leakage. According to Howard, given that we are losing coastal ecosystems at such a rapid rate and restoring them at such a low rate, any restoration of mangroves should be seen as additional. Leakage is also not as a concern, according to Troxler, as mangroves are not as vulnerable to forest fires, disease outbreaks and competing marketing as upland forests.
Permanence is where mangroves and mangroves see the greatest risk. If a carbon credit restores a mangrove stuck between rising sea levels and coastal development, all that work can be squeezed out. And the historic freezing temperatures that are becoming increasingly common due to climate change can also wipe out an entire mangrove project overnight.
Pricing is another area where mangrove credits will differ from terrestrial forests. Conservation International plans to sell its mangrove carbon credits for between $ 12 and $ 20 per tonne. According to a report from Ecosystems Marketplace, an initiative of the Forest Trends Association, traditional forestry and land use credits cost an average of $ 5.92 in North America for a ton of CO2 removed.
The money raised from Cispatá will be collected in a centralized fund and distributed by a panel of local authorities in consultation with Conservation International.
“It’s very high quality carbon,” Howard said. “It also comes with an additional certification called CCB, the Community Climate and Biodiversity Certification, due to the endangered species we work with. And so combined, this is the very first blue carbon credit to have this additional certification. We are producing a premium product. “