African Blue Carbon

Mangroves and tidal wetlands have the highest carbon density among terrestrial ecosystems. Although they only represent 3 % of the total forest area (or 0.01 % of land area), C emissions from mangrove destruction alone at
current rates could be equivalent to 10 % of carbon emissions from deforestation. Due to their location along highly populated coastlines, they are under significant threat from anthropogenic activity as well as sea level rise. In fact, it is estimated that over 50% of mangrove forests and tidal marshes have been destroyed over the past 60 years, with continued annual deforestation rates of 1% to 2%. The high C sequestration coupled with the high risk of destruction makes mangroves a prime candidate for carbon mitigation initiatives such as the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries (UNREDD and REDD+).

One of the main challenges to implementing carbon mitigation projects is measuring carbon, efficiently, effectively, and safely. In mangroves especially, the extreme difficulty of the terrain has hindered the establishment of sufficient field plots needed to accurately measure carbon on the scale necessary to relate remotely sensed measurements with field measurements at accuracies of 10% to 20% as required for REDD and other C trading mechanisms. Furthermore, most intensive mangrove sites are established in South-East Asia, Australia and Latin America, with a large gap in knowledge in African mangrove ecosystems.

Our goals are to develop the methodologies for, and produce the initial remote sensing products necessary to implement an MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) system in Coastal Blue Carbon ecosystems in collaboration with local in country and international partners. We propose to estimate forest change, structure and biomass of mangrove forests to improve carbon management, monitoring and carbon cycle science, and to inform REDD+ and carbon emission mitigation projects in Tanzania, Mozambique and Gabon.

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