Learning lessons from mangrove research

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BOGOR, Indonesia (2 June, 2011)_Bubbling gas tracers into mangrove river systems is just one of the innovative ways that difficult-to-measure carbon flux can be quantified, helping to unveil the influence of mangroves and peat swamp forests on carbon levels.

Climate Scientist Victor Engel from the Florida Everglades National Park in the USA joined a workshop held in Bali by CIFOR in April 2011 on Wetland Ecosystems in Indonesia. The workshop focused on new research that is on the cutting edge of climate change science.

New research is showing how important mangroves, such as this one in Nusa Lembongan, Bali, are to climate change mitigation. Photo courtesy of Pierre/flickr

The ‘tracer experiment’, as he calls it in a video interview from the workshop (watch above), has proved new methods in calculating carbon budgets in complex ecosystems such as mangroves.

Studies have quantified the levels of carbon stored in these unique forests both in the trees themselves and in the soil where they grow. The levels are alarming and the large-scale destruction of mangrove and peat forests in Indonesia is contributing much higher amounts of greenhouse gases than other types of tropical forests.

“When you talk about a carbon budget,” Engels states in the video, “it’s an open system, you have fresh water inputs from inland and you have the ocean coming in, everything is mixing around, so it is hard to quantify carbon budgets with traditional methods. That is why we used the tracer experiment.”

Engel presented methods and results from his studies in Florida to his Indonesian and International colleagues and hopes that the findings can help mangrove research in South East Asia and particularly Indonesia, which has 23% of the worlds remaining mangrove forests.

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