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Marine Project provides wise advice on wise Mangroves

posted on 19/03/2013: 2472 views


The Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), supported by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), last year launched a pioneering ‘Blue Carbon' project that connects local coastal and marine ecosystem health with climate change mitigation. Early results of the assessments indicate Abu Dhabi's mangroves have more value at their old age, than the newly planted mangroves.

Blue Carbon coastal ecosystems include mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and saltwater marshlands. These ecosystems continuously sequester (isolate) carbon from the atmosphere, sometimes at rates higher than tropical forests, thereby helping to mitigate climate change.

The ‘Blue Carbon' project draws together an international team of experts to investigate the critical role Abu Dhabi's coastal and marine ecosystems play in fighting climate change.

As reported in January of this year, the project assesses carbon sequestration and other services Abu Dhabi's Blue Carbon ecosystems provide. The project is gaining an understanding of their geographic extent, and assesses possible frameworks for the development of mitigation initiatives in Abu Dhabi. In addition, the outcomes hope to provide improved management options for the preservation and restoration of the coastal and marine ecosystems.

In January, a team of international experts from GRID-Arendal, World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), and a team of coastal carbon scientists, as well as EAD, AGEDI and local volunteers undertook field surveys to determine the extent, quality and baseline quantification of carbon stocks and sequestration potential of mangrove, salt marsh and sabkha coastal ecosystems. Sites surveyed extended across the Emirate from Ghantoot in the east to Bu Tinah Island in the west. This fieldwork provided the essential data for current analysis assessing the total stock of carbon fixed by these ecosystems in Abu Dhabi.

During the fieldwork, a ground-truthing application, currently under development for this project was tested, its aim being the strengthening of information on Blue Carbon ecosystems' distribution in the Emirate. EAD aims to use this application to contribute to the increased quality of spatial data.

Another essential component of the fieldwork was the integration of EAD personnel and local volunteers from Zayed University, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Higher Colleges for Technology, Takatof as well as the Abu Dhabi community with global experts in these coastal ecosystems, to develop local capacity for the continuation of Blue Carbon assessments in the future. This was further reinforced by international partnerships formed and the inclusion of stakeholders from Indonesia and Madagascar, countries in which similar Blue Carbon projects are being implemented.

This international involvement is an example of how, through the knowledge and experiences gained from this project, Abu Dhabi aims to provide global leadership in understanding and incentivising linkages between coastal management and climate change around the world, as countries move towards greening their economies.

During the upcoming months, local stakeholders will be engaged to further explore how Blue Carbon and other ecosystem services can be integrated into policy and market frameworks in Abu Dhabi. Collaboration and engagement with the agencies and organisations identified by EAD and the project team will be key to the success of the project.

Key sites for the seagrass surveys that will take place in April will be determined in the next couple of weeks. During the surveys, scientists from Florida International University will work with EAD to determine the baseline quantification of carbon stocks for this marine ecosystem. In addition, a rapid assessment will be undertaken to determine other services that Blue Carbon ecosystems in Abu Dhabi offer, such as providing a habitat for migratory birds, endangered dugongs, and (commercially exploited) fish, serving as the basis for eco-tourism, as well as their importance in terms of cultural heritage.

This project is affiliated with the Eye on Oceans '&' Blue Carbon global initiative. The methods applied for this Abu Dhabi project consist of concrete applications of Blue Carbon and coastal ecosystem services resources that have yet to be applied elsewhere. These applications provide us with options on how to value and incentivise for sustainable coastal conservation. It is hoped this application will provide decision makers with the prospect to assess and manage blue carbon resources in other regions of the world.

The Abu Dhabi Demonstration project is facilitated by AGEDI and supported by an expert team from GRID-Arendal, United Nations Environment Programme, WCMC, Forest Trends, and a team of coastal carbon scientists. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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