Desert mangroves play huge role in the carbon storage

Written by on April 8, 2016 in Other News

New research shows that mangroves in the coastal desert of Baja California store up to five times more carbon than tropical mangroves. These desert mangroves store almost 30% of the region’s belowground carbon, but they only account for 1% of land area.


Mangroves. Photo credit: NOAA.

“Mangroves represent a thin layer between ocean and land, and yet we are seeing an ecosystem that is storing a lot of carbon in a very small area,” Paula Ezcurra, lead author of the study and former researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explained in a news release.

Mangroves store carbon in peat — a layer of sediment made up of less decomposed roots and plant matter. In these desert mangroves, the peat layer was about four meters (13 feet) below, representing over 2,000 years of history.

Because the mangroves in this desert coastal region are restricted to inlets, they have just been growing over their own roots for centuries to compensate for rising sea levels. This has led to the accumulation of a thick layer of peat. Tropical mangroves, however, simply migrate inland when sea levels rise, resulting in a much thinner layer of peat.

“The results show how these ecosystems have been adapting to climate change and sea-level rise for thousands of years,” said Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, assistant professor at the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, who has been studying the ecosystem services of mangroves in Mexico, and in Baja California in particular, for more than 10 years. “Understanding the link between the natural history and carbon storage capacity of mangrove environments could give us insight into future climate change and sea-level rise.”

This study also highlights the importance of mangrove conservation efforts. When mangroves are cut down, all of that stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

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Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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