New study on Trinidad and Tobago’s mangroves paves the way to global carbon market

New research led by Trinidad and Tobago’s Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) will be the first step in laying the groundwork for the country to trade carbon internationally, supporting the economy while fighting climate change.

Carbon dioxide is one of the main drivers of climate change, and mangroves have an immense capacity to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it away for millions of years – a process known as carbon sequestration.

The Mangrove Soil Carbon Sequestration Assessment project, funded by the British High Commission in Port of Spain, aims to measure how much carbon is stored in local mangrove soils and give it a monetary value. This would enable trading in the emerging ‘carbon market’, where units of greenhouse gas emissions are priced and traded, in order to limit climate change.

The comprehensive, high quality data the project will provide will help develop more targeted evidence-based conservation policies for the country’s 7500 hectares of mangroves, while enabling it to earn foreign exchange income for mangrove preservation in the future. It will also contribute to Trinidad and Tobago’s commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Minister of Planning and Development, Hon Camille Robinson-Regis, welcomed the initiative: “This project will be highly profitable to Trinidad and Tobago, not only for its monetary value, but also for its environmental benefits as well as being a tool in our National Development Strategy and our Climate Action Goals (SDG13).”

British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Harriet Cross, stated: “This project shows the importance of ensuring that we are collecting the right data to make informed choices. Projects like this help us to be ambitious, meet Paris Agreement goals, support stronger national action and stronger international collaboration, all of which are needed to tackle climate change and protect current and future generations.”

The project will be presented as a case study during a virtual event organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat on the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, 26 July, in collaboration with members of the Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods Action Group under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Mangroves – an untapped climate action treasure

Mangrove forests are among the most carbon-dense ecosystems on earth, with over 90 percent of mangrove carbon stored in their soils. The assessment involves the analysis of soil cores from mangrove forests around Trinidad and Tobago, covering a wide gamut of environmental variables.

The study also examines which mangrove forests store the most carbon, as well as the factors that affect the amount they store.

“In the Caribbean, we have not quantified how much carbon is stored in our mangrove soils. The significance of the study is that understanding how much carbon is stored helps in terms of how we can use and monetize this information,” explained IMA Director (Ag.), Dr. Rahanna Juman.

“This will allow us to investigate initiatives where we can receive payments to maintain our mangrove forests in a healthy state, or even rehabilitate degraded ecosystems so that they can continue to store carbon.”

The project builds upon another UK-funded study conducted in 2020 by Professor John Agard of the University of the West Indies in collaboration with the IMA, which measured the carbon content within mangrove biomass. Together with that research, the IMA will develop the most accurate estimation of mangrove carbon storage ever conducted for Trinidad and Tobago, among a small handful in the world.

The project will be shared at a special webinar on International Mangrove Day with a view to exchanging views, lessons and experiences with other Commonwealth member countries and supporting the work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Event: Mapping mangrove ecosystems using satellite technology

Date: Monday 26 July 2021, 13:00 – 14:00 BST

To mark the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on 26 July, the Commonwealth Secretariat is hosting a virtual event to showcase how powerful satellite technology can support the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves in the Commonwealth.

Mangrove ecosystems

Thirty-three of the 54 Commonwealth countries hold mangrove ecosystems, representing 22 per cent of global coverage. Sri Lanka champions the Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods Action Group under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Between 30-50% of mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. New approaches to restoration of mangroves are emerging, benefiting from low-cost technologies, which can help build back the resilience of local communities through empowered engagement and innovative funding.

Recognising the importance of mangrove ecosystems as “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem,” the Commonwealth Blue Charter promotes solutions for their management, conservation and sustainable use.

The webinar, organised in partnership with the satellite company Planet, will demonstrate how satellite images can help paint a comprehensive picture of global mangrove coverage, aiding national planning and conservation.

Speakers

  • Hasanthi Dissanayake, Director General – Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka
  • Nikia Gooding, Geospatial Research Fellow, Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Pathma Abeykoon, Director – Biodiversity Secretariat, Ministry of Environment, Sri Lanka
  • Mark Richardson, Strategic Accounts, EMEA Planet
  • Dr Jeff Ardron (moderator), Adviser – Ocean Governance and Project Lead for the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Commonwealth Secretariat

Mangrove Day virtual event flyer (PDF)

Registration

Tahiry Honko – Community-Led Mangrove Carbon Project, Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area, Madagascar (on-going)

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“We inherited these mangroves from our ancestors, providing materials we need to survive. I want to ensure we can pass these forests on to our children.” Joel François, member of the Velondriake management association

Summary

The Tahiry Honko mangrove carbon project is helping build community resilience and provides a model to help tackle climate breakdown by restoring and protecting mangrove forests.

Working in partnership with Blue Ventures, 10 villages within the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in southwest Madagascar are employing a participatory monitoring and management approach as a solution to address degradation and deforestation of mangroves. By verifying the success of this management and monitoring under the Plan Vivo standard, this approach generates carbon credits whose sale can in turn provide sustainable income to both the project villages and the Velondriake management association.

The project promotes locally led conservation, reforestation and sustainable use of over 1,200 hectares of mangroves, alongside initiatives for building improved and alternative livelihoods. It prevents the emission of almost 1,400 tonnes of CO2/year and the funds from carbon credit sales will support management of the LMMA – including fisheries management – and also development of infrastructure and community services.

The issue

Mangroves underpin coastal fisheries, provide vital sources of fuel wood and timber, protect coastal people from extreme weather and act as a key natural climate solution by sequestering globally significant amounts of CO2. Despite their huge value, mangroves are being deforested at an alarming rate. Unabated, mangrove destruction will deprive tens of millions of people of their livelihoods and undermine their well-being. It will exacerbate the global climate emergency we now face, while taking away what vital natural protection coastal people have against it.

Blue Ventures has worked with coastal communities in Madagascar for 15 years, to explore new ways to derive benefits from protecting mangroves, in particular, by capturing the value of mangrove carbon sequestration, as well as indirect fish production.

The response

By protecting forests within the bay from deforestation and restoring areas of degraded mangroves, local communities are able to safeguard the vast amount of carbon stored in the mangrove vegetation and sediments – so called ‘blue carbon’ – that is released as CO2 when mangrove forests are destroyed.

As of October 2019, these avoided emissions have a value on the voluntary carbon market – a value that has now been realised by formal validation of the communities’ efforts by the Plan Vivo standard, enabling the project to start to sell verified blue carbon credits. This will provide regular income to support community conservation efforts within the Velondriake area over the next 20 years.

Introductory video: http://vimeo.com/131638557

Partnerships and support

The Tahiry Honko mangrove carbon project is implemented by the Velondriake management association with technical support from Blue Ventures and in close partnership with the Government of Madagascar. The CO2 emission reductions are verified by the Plan Vivo Foundation.

The development of this project is funded by the Darwin Initiative through UK government funding, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through its Blue Forests Project, the MacArthur Foundation and by UK Aid.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The project promotes locally led conservation, reforestation and sustainable use of over 1,200 hectares of mangroves, alongside initiatives that build alternative livelihoods – including sea cucumber and seaweed farming and mangrove beekeeping – and support the delivery of health and education services in the region.

By avoiding emissions of over 1,300 tonnes of CO2 per year, Tahiry Honko will provide a regular income through carbon credit sales to support local management of the marine protected area over the next 20 years. Funds will also help finance community development, including the construction of vital infrastructure and supporting health care and education.

One of the most critical parts of the project development process has been the creation of the benefit-sharing arrangement, which is really the key to making these projects successful in the long term. The partner villages decided between them that 50 per cent of the funds should go to the villages within the mangroves, and they have come up with a list of priority social investment projects that will improve their well-being – things like solar panels, safe drinking water projects, improved buildings for schools. Then, 23 per cent of the funds go to the management association to cover the running costs of the locally managed marine area. The remaining 27 per cent goes to the national government, as the other main partner in the project.

Challenges

Mangroves inhabit a unique environment at the transition of land and sea. While this presents many opportunities, from a policy perspective it can also lead to conflicting legislation, because mangroves are at once both terrestrial and marine. To overcome these challenges, it is necessary for projects to work closely with both the relevant authorities – forestry and fisheries.

Also from a policy perspective, in many countries carbonspecific legislation is still in its infancy, and is not always fully inclusive of mangroves. While Madagascar now has a relatively mature and clear carbon policy framework, the project did encounter challenges as it was developed simultaneously with this framework. Close collaboration with and support from the national REDD+ body was vital to project success.

Key lessons learnt

The benefit-sharing scenario developed by the partner villages is critical to long-term project success. It takes time to develop clear, transparent benefitsharing scenarios in a truly participative manner. To ensure that interest in the project is maintained, shorter-term incentives to conservation need to be developed concurrently.

The monitoring and evaluation whose results dictate the number of carbon credits generated – and thus project income – also needs to be completed in a participatory and transparent way. To support this, the project has developed robust, simplified methods for carbon and forest monitoring that can easily be implemented by the community members themselves but that still fulfil the requirements of the Plan Vivo standard. Clear and simple data-sharing methods have also been developed so the Velondriake association can share the results with the often-illiterate project participants.

Lead contact

Lalao Aigrette, Blue Ventures

References and sources

Blue Forests

https://blueventures.org/publication/participatoryplanning-of-a-community-based-payments-forecosystem-services-initiative-in-madagascarsmangroves/

https://blueventures.org/communities-inmadagascar-launch-the-worlds-largest-mangrovecarbon-conservation-project/?fbclid=IwAR2oh6AlnIETF2koMyj0qLgIc3cONbLQ7P9F_ l78SJjhRemkeLufG0P1HQ

https://blueventures.org/tag/tahiry-honko/

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Experts share critical lessons on saving mangroves

Mangroves are disappearing at an alarming rate, with conservationists across the Commonwealth striving to save them from local extinction.

These nearshore forests that straddle land and sea provide a range of vital services to both humans and fish, such as coastal protection.

In a webinar organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat to mark World Mangrove Day – the third in a Blue Charter series which was attended by more than 120 participants – scientists and policy experts discussed how to “unlock” the wealth of mangroves, by regenerating these extraordinary ecosystems.

Rare ecosystems

Hasanthi Dissanayake, Director of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka, set the scene: “Mangroves are rare ecosystems that support the rich biodiversity and provide a valuable nursery for fish and crustaceans. There is a range of livelihoods connected to mangroves, ranging from fisheries to tourism.

“They also act as form of natural coastal defence against tsunamis, rising sea levels, storm surges and erosion. Their soils are highly effective carbon sinks, sequestering vast amounts of carbon.”

Watch the highlights video

Watch the full webinar

Despite their ecological and economic value, mangroves are perishing at least three to five times faster than overall global forests. Half of the world’s mangroves have already been lost over the last 50 years due to human activity such as coastal development and pollution.

Reversing this decline has not been easy and is one of the main focus areas of the Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement by 54 countries to act

ively work together to solve some of the world’s most pressing ocean issues.

Case studies, lessons learned

The webinar saw panellists share their experiences in preserving and regenerating mangroves around the world.

Rahanna Juman, Deputy Director at the Institute of Marine Affairs in Trinidad and Tobago cited a mangrove-replanting project in an area that had been cleared to construct a pipeline. To bring back the mangroves, her team first restored the natural topography and flow of water to the area, then replanted more than 260 seedlings.

However, very few survived in comparison to mangroves that naturally recolonised the area, once it was back to the original environmental conditions. Dr Juman advised: “Mangrove planting should be the last option”.

Achini Fernando, a specialist at Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority, showed how “rapid assessing techniques” can be used to map species diversity as well as vulnerability of mangroves.

She added that this leads to better decisions on eco-tourism plans in Sri Lanka, saying: “Scientific data forms the foundation for good management.”

Leah Glass, global lead on mangroves from Blue Ventures, explained how her organisation is working with the UK Government to empower coastal communities to manage mangroves in a way that also fights climate change.

This is done by placing a monetary value on the carbon stored by mangroves and selling these “carbon credits” to global buyers who want to make a positive impact on the environment. The returns are then used to fund community-led mangrove conservation, restoration and management.

Judith Okello, an ecologist from Kenya’s Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, echoed the importance of engaging local communities. In her research, local actors have been a key source of information to guide mangrove restoration work.

Collaboration

The Commonwealth Blue Charter lead at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Jeff Ardron, welcomed the insights shared by panellists, and encouraged countries, partner agencies, and all interested to further collaborate through the Blue Charter Action Group focused on mangroves.

He said: “The work Commonwealth Blue Charter is driven by 10 action groups, led or co-led by 13 champion countries. These action groups are valuable platforms to share experiences, strategies and best practices – both what works and what doesn’t – to make country actions more effective.”

Sri Lanka champions the Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods.

The webinar was the third in a series focusing on challenges and solutions for more sustainable ocean management.

PAST EVENT: Unlocking the Wealth of Mangrove Ecosystems

Commonwealth countries hold more than a fifth of mangroves in the world. But they are rapidly disappearing – globally, between 30 to 50% of mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. New approaches to restoration of mangroves are emerging, benefiting from new, low-cost technologies. These can support the resilience of local communities across the Commonwealth through empowered engagement and innovative funding.

This webinar will:

  • Provide an overview of the science and policy adopted by different nations to gather information required for better management of mangroves.
  • Showcase learning through case studies from projects across the Commonwealth representing different regions.
  • Highlight the various platforms available to move forward in a post COVID-19 world.

Panelists 

Watch the highlights video

Watch the full webinar

The webinar is part of a wider series of virtual events that promote collaboration through the sharing of experiences, best practices and solutions on ocean issues. They also offer the opportunity to reflect on how to move forward with ocean management in a post-COVID-19 world.

For more information contact: [email protected]

World Oceans Day: Mapping the Commonwealth one coral reef at a time

Celebrating World Oceans Day 2020, on 8 June, the Commonwealth Secretariat kicked off with the first Commonwealth Blue Charter webinar in its new series.

With 45% of coral reefs in Commonwealth waters and more than 90% of reefs globally predicted to be lost to climate change, NOW is the time for action. This webinar highlighted the efforts member countries and Vulcan Inc. are undertaking to map and accelerate protection and restoration of these precious ecosystems.

The event was hosted by The Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, with a special address from Her Excellency Dr Farah Faizal, High Commissioner of Maldives to the UK. The event highlighted the actions and progress of three Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups:

Vulcan Inc. demonstrated the Allen Coral Atlas which is bringing together multiple datasets to develop a detailed global coral atlas. Countries can utilise this map to inform their policy decisions to protect and restore coral reefs.  Maps for Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Fiji, Jamaica, Kenya, Mozambique, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tonga and Tuvalu are available on the Commonwealth Innovation Hub.

During the webinar, a new short film produced by the Commonwealth Blue Charter highlighting the 10 Action Groups was premiered.

Over 200 people from 56 countries around the world participated in the webinar, which finished with a panel discussion including questions from the audience.

Panelists of the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC during the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary-General, speaking during the webinar

Watch event highlights

Watch full event

Lessons From the Restoration of a Mangrove System in Point Lisas, Trinidad and Tobago

UPDATE: To mark the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on 26 July, 2021, the Commonwealth Secretariat is hosting a virtual event to showcase how powerful satellite technology can support the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves in the Commonwealth. Register here.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

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“Once you recreate the natural hydrological environment and there is a source of seedlings, natural mangrove regeneration will occur.” Dr Rahanna Juman, Director (Acting), Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago

Summary

Significant impacts on the mangroves in Trinidad and Tobago date back to the 1780s, when the St Ann’s River was diverted and wetlands were reclaimed to expand the city of Port of Spain. Development of roads, housing, industries and other infrastructure along the coast has contributed to the decline of the mangrove forest. For instance, in 1979, approximately 500 ha of forest from Couva to north of Claxton Bay were reclaimed for the construction of the Point Lisas Industrial Park and DeepWater Port.

Since 2001, Trinidad and Tobago has had in place a National Policy and Programmes on Wetland Conservation. This includes the concept of “no net loss” of wetlands, their values and their functions on publicly owned lands and waters, and requires mitigation action where mangroves have been removed or adversely affected as a result of development works.

This case study shares the experience of a restoration project in the vicinity of Point Lisas Industrial Park, initiated in 1999. A historic case study is useful to show how a situation has played out – giving the benefit of hindsight to draw lessons. This example shows that the key success factor for this mangrove restoration project was not the planting but rather the restoration of the hydrology in the area to create the right conditions for natural colonisation and recovery.

The issue

Point Lisas, on the west coast of Trinidad, was developed in the late 1970s as a deep-water port and industrial park. The west coast is where the majority of mangrove forests are to be found; it is also where more than 70 per cent of the population reside and has experienced the most intense development.

In the late 1990s, the ammonia industry had cleared a 1200 m2 area of fringing mangrove forest to enable the placement of a pipeline to carry waste-water into the Gulf of Paria.

It was expected that the mangrove forest would regenerate naturally as seedlings were available from the adjoining wetlands.

After 18 months, however, the mangrove showed no sign of regeneration.

Given the national policy for no-net loss of mangrove ecosystems, action was taken to investigate the reasons for the lack of regeneration and to attempt restoration.

The response

In 1999, a replanting project was undertaken to recover the mangroves at Point Lisas cleared during the construction of the pipeline.

During the laying of the pipeline, marl used to the cover the pipeline was unevenly placed, altering the topography of the area and restricting tidal flow. To restore the natural topography, profiles were taken in the cleared area, and were compared with the adjoining mangrove forest. From these profiles, the amount of material to be excavated to restore the topography and to re-establish the tidal hydrology was determined.

Before replanting, the topography was restored by removing the overburden to re-establish the tidal flushing; this allows the area to be flooded by the high tide.

Following these works, and once it was established that the area was being flooded by the tide, 261 seedlings of three species of mangrove were planted – 170 red (Rhizophora mangle), 76 black (Avicennia germinans) and 15 white (Laguncularia mangle).

The long-term monitoring of this project has enabled observation of the site’s response over time.

Partnerships and support

The Institute of Marine Affairs, a government-funded research institute, was commissioned in 1999 by the ammonia plant that had laid the pipeline to restore the cleared mangrove area. The project was conducted jointly as a public-private partnership, with funding provided by the private company. Monitoring of this mangrove forest west of the plant still continues up to today.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

After 10 months, the number of seedlings recorded had increased to 354 – 82 per cent of which were natural colonisers. Only 24 per cent of the transplants were recorded.

Most of the seedlings observed were black and white mangroves and they were natural colonisers (169 natural black mangrove and 120 natural white mangrove). The red mangroves, which were more abundant closer to the Couva river mouth did not establish in this area. The black and white mangroves dominated this area of swamp. This restored area had healthy seedlings and saplings and was washed regularly by high tides.

By 2003, the tree density was 30 trees per 0.01 ha, with tree height between 6 and 8 m. Shortly after 2003, the area suffered mangrove die back disease, but by 2006 there had been another period of regrowth, with the tree density returning to 13 trees per 0.01 ha and an average height of almost 10 m. There have been subsequent periods of die back and regrowth in the restoration area as a result of disease and infestation. However, there has not been any further replanting since 1999 and so the system appears quite resilient.

The restoration project in 1999 was considered a success; however, the planting of mangrove seedlings proved not necessary once the physical characteristics of the site had been restored. Without reconstruction of the gradient and tidal hydrology, the replanting would have failed to re-establish mangroves in this area.

Challenges

The main challenge was to determine why natural regeneration had not occurred as had been expected, given the plentiful supply of seedlings in the adjoining wetland areas.

The approach taken to conduct scientific surveys to determine what may have changed in the physical environment proved successful. This supports the need for evidence (scientific)-based decision-making.

Sources

Juman, R.A. (2013) ‘Restoration of a Mangrove System in Point Lisas, Trinidad and Tobago’. Presented to the 1st Mangrove Forum, Guyana.

Juman, R.A. and Hassanali, K. (2013) ‘Mangrove Conservation in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies’, Chapter 2 in G. Gleason and T.R. Victor (eds) Mangrove Ecosystems. Nova Science Publications accessed via https://www.ima.gov.tt/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ Mangrove-Conservation-in-TT.pdf

Juman, R.A. and Ramsewak, D. (2013) ‘Status of Mangrove Forests in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies’. Caribbean Journal of Science, June.

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