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Belize highlights importance of mangroves to global eco-systems

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Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2020. 2:49 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: Marine ecologist and co-founder of the University of Belize Environmental Research Unit (UB ERI), Leandra Cho-Ricketts, in an interview with The Pew Charitable Trust commemorating International Mangrove Day on July 26, explained the importance of the natural nurseries and their impact on mitigating climate change.

Cho-Ricketts serves as a member on several national committees and networks providing technical and scientific advice on marine resources management and is working on a new Pew-funded research project focused on quantifying the carbon value of mangroves in Belize. The data from this project will be used to support Belize’s future climate commitments, an article from The Pew Charitable Trust noted.

“A new area of research that I am particularly excited about is better understanding the carbon value of mangroves since Belize still retains a large proportion of its mangrove cover when compared with its regional neighbors. We are undertaking a collaborative research project with a team of international scientists to take soil cores in mangroves and quantify the carbon stored in these soils. This research can help inform Belize’s climate commitments as mangroves store up to five times more carbon in their soils per area than other tropical forests, and this carbon can remain there for centuries,” Cho-Ricketts told the Pew Trust.

Aside from the carbon storage, mangrove forests provide other ecosystem services that make them especially valuable in a changing climate. For example, mangroves support food security and livelihoods, helping people better adapt to the impacts of climate change. Their dense root systems help stabilize coastlines, and along with the forest canopy can help buffer coastal communities from the full impact of storms. These properties make them an ideal tool for climate policies such as the Paris Agreement, where countries can include the protection of mangroves, along with emissions reductions, to help stem global temperature rise, Cho-Ricketts explained.

The global rate of mangrove loss in the past few decades has been staggering. It’s estimated that half the world’s mangroves have been lost in the past 50 years. There is an urgent need to protect healthy mangrove forests and restore degraded ones. However, with a strong policy in place, there is hope.

“In Belize, we are fortunate to still have large areas of healthy mangrove forests. Recently our national mangrove regulation was revised to better protect mangroves and the ecosystem services they provide. Determining the climate value of mangroves is another way to secure strong mangrove protections as these ecosystems, along with seagrass and salt marshes, are recognized for their measurable contribution to climate adaption and mitigation,” she said.

 

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