New study shows mangrove forests soils hold more than 6.4 billion tons of carbon globally

The Enipein Mangrove Forest Reserve at low tide.
© Nick Hall

The most detailed study to date of the soil carbon stored in mangrove forests has revealed that these soils hold more than 6.4 billion tons of carbon globally, according to a new paper in Environmental Research Letters.

That is about 4.5 times the amount of carbon emitted by the U.S. economy in one year.

More than 90 percent of the total carbon stock in mangrove forests can be stored in the soil. The study used 30-meter resolution remote sensing data to show that mangrove forest destruction caused as much as 122 million tons of carbon to be released to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2015.

The paper also found that more than 75 percent of those soil carbon emissions were attributable to mangrove deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar.

“Effective action on climate change will require a combination of emissions reductions and atmospheric carbon removals,” said Dr. Jonathan Sanderman of the Woods Hole Research Center, who was the lead author on the paper. More than 20 co-authors contributed to the work. “Protecting, enhancing and restoring natural carbon sinks must become political priorities. Mangrove forests can play an important role in carbon removals because they are among the most carbon-dense ecosystems in the world, and if kept undisturbed, mangrove forest soils act as long-term carbon sinks.”

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