The protection of the mangrove forests, which are threatened worldwide, is not only affordable, it offers economic potential for climate protection. Because mangroves store large amounts of carbon. Researchers have quantified the cost and monetary value of mangrove conservation in reducing global greenhouse emissions.
Mangrove forests are among the world’s most threatened ecosystems. Every year around one percent of the area is cleared to make room for fields, aquaculture, cities and hotels. Mangroves are trees of various types that grow in tropical coastal regions and are salt-resistant. They fulfill important ecological functions: with their aerial roots, they secure bank areas. The species-rich ecosystems offer young fish, crustaceans, birds and marine mammals a protected “nursery”. They are crucial for healthy fish stocks. Mangroves also store large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. If the forests are destroyed, the CO2 and other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrogen escape into the atmosphere.
The underrated climate protector
Each hectare of mangrove forest binds as much carbon as several hectares of tropical rainforest. Mangroves do not even take up one percent of the area of the tropical forest worldwide. According to researchers, however, this area would be sufficient to bind around 2.5 times the fossil CO2 emissions emitted annually today, namely around 20 billion tons of carbon.
Despite this potential, mangroves have so far hardly been taken into account in programs to “reduce emissions from deforestation and destructive forest use” (UN-REDD program). REDD is a mechanism of international climate protection policy with the following basic idea: If developing countries demonstrably reduce the deforestation of forests, they receive compensation payments. Most of the costs are borne by the industrialized nations by buying emission certificates to “offset” the greenhouse gas emissions they produce.