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News Article

Carbon storage in the Brazilian Amazon

New study finds the Amazons' mangroves store twice as much carbon per acre than its rainforest

The Brazilian Amazon contains the largest area of tropical forests, as well as one of the largest areas of mangroves in the world.  Mangroves are a collection of trees and shrubs that are located in tropical coastal intertidal zones.  There are about 80 different species of mangrove trees, representing 0.6 percent of all of the world’s tropical forests.  Residing in waterlogged soils, mangroves sequester significant quantities of carbon that is stored for many years, although it has been estimated that their deforestation equates to 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions arising from all tropical deforestation.  A new, long-term study has found that coastal mangrove forests in the Amazon store significantly more carbon per acre that the regions rainforest.

Due to their potential value for mitigating climate change, the carbon stocks of the upland forests of the Amazon have been the focus of a number of studies, while few have investigated its blue carbon stocks.  Oceans and coastal ecosystems including salt marshes, mangroves and seagrass communities are collectively referred to as “blue carbon” as they hold large carbon reservoirs. 

The researchers sought to quantify the ecosystem carbon stocks of the salt marshes and mangroves of the Amazon in the state of Pará, Brazil.  Total ecosystem carbon stocks (TECS’s) were sampled from nine mangroves and three salt marshes, located east of the mouth of the Amazon River.   The team found that the blue carbon stocks exceeded those of upland forest ecosystems in Brazil.  The mean carbon stocks of the Amazon mangroves were found to be over twice those of upland Amazon evergreen forests; mean carbon stocks of mangroves of NE Brazil were eight times greater that the surrounding upland tropical dry forests and mean carbon stocks of herbaceous-dominated salt marshes were almost twice as much as those of upland savannas of the Brazilian Cerrado.

The sheer expanse of the Brazilian mangroves, combined with the large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions that results from their deforestation underlines their potential value in climate change mitigation and for including in adaptation strategies.

“Over 25 years, we found two to three times more carbon stored in the mangroves than in the rainforest,” said study co-author J. Boone Kauffman. “When those forests are cut down they lose carbon, creating far more greenhouse gases than when the rainforests are cleared. Mangroves deserve conservation and participation in climate change mitigation actions throughout the world.”

As well as their ability to store carbon, mangrove forests provide other ecosystem services such as storm, flood and erosion control, the prevention of salt water intrusion and a breeding, spawning and nursery habitat for fish and other species. 

Subscribers to the Environmental Impact database can access over 1,300 records using the search string ("mangrove forests" OR mangroves) AND ("carbon sinks" OR "carbon sequestration" OR carbon)  A selection of these can be found in the further reading section below.

Journal reference

J. Boone Kauffman, Angelo F. Bernardino, Tiago O. Ferreira, Leila R. Giovannoni, Luiz Eduardo de O. Gomes, Danilo Jefferson Romero, Laís Coutinho Zayas Jimenez, Francisco Ruiz. Carbon stocks of mangroves and salt marshes of the Amazon region, Brazil. Biology Letters, 2018; 14 (9): 20180208 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0208

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Stephanie Cole
  • Date
  • 01 October 2018
  • Source
  • Oregon State University
  • Subject(s)
  • Environment
  • Management