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Mangroves worldwide: a global loss of tidal forests

Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care


The first global assessment of mangroves in over a decade reveals that rare and critically important mangrove forests continue to be lost at a rate three to four times higher than land-based global forests, despite positive restoration efforts by some countries.

About one fifth of all mangroves are thought to have been lost since 1980. Although losses are slowing at 0.7 per cent a year, the authors warn that any further destruction due to shrimp farming and coastal development will cause significant economic and ecological decline.

Economic assessments provide some of the most powerful arguments in favour of mangrove management, protection or restoration. Studies estimate that mangroves generate between US$2000-9000 per hectare annually, considerably more than alternative uses such as aquaculture, agriculture or insensitive tourism.

The new atlas also underscores positive trends. Restoration efforts now cover some 400,000 hectares, as foresighted countries make the link between these coastal forests and economically-important services from flood defenses and fish nurseries to carbon storage to combat climate change.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, which is hosted by UNEP is bringing to the fore the multi-trillion dollar value of the world’s nature-based assets. This atlas brings our attention onto mangroves and puts them up front and central, plotting where they are, describing where they have been lost, and underlining the immense costs those loses have had for people as well as nature”.

“Together, the science and the economics can drive policy shifts. Some 1,200 protected areas are now safeguarding around a quarter of remaining mangroves and many countries are now embarking on major restorations-a positive signal upon which to build and to accelerate a definitive response in 2010, the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity,” he added.

“Mangrove forests are the ultimate illustration of why humans need nature,” says Dr. Mark Spalding, lead author of the World Mangrove Atlas and senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy. “In place after place the book details the extraordinary synergies between people and forests. The trees provide hard, rot-resistant timber and make some of the best charcoal in the world. The waters all around foster some of the greatest productivity of fish and shellfish in any coastal waters. What’s more, mangrove forests help prevent erosion and mitigate natural hazards from cyclones to tsunamis – these are natural coastal defenses whose importance will only grow as sea level rise becomes a reality around the world.”

“Given their value, there can be no justification for further mangrove loss. What’s urgently needed is for all those working in fields of forestry, fisheries and the environment to work together and communicate their worth, both to the public and to those with the capacity to make a difference”, said Emmanuel Ze Meka, Executive Director of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) which provided the bulk of funding for the Atlas. This book goes a considerable way to communicating that message.”

“The Nature Conservancy is an organization with its feet firmly on the ground in 30 countries,” said Mark Terceck, CEO of the Conservancy. “Already we have teams working to protect and restore mangroves from Florida to Indonesia, Palau to Grenada. This book raises the stakes and engenders urgency, but it also offers hope. These are robust and resilient ecosystems. Get things right for them and the payback will be immense: security for rich biodiversity and a lifeline to many of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Key Findings from the Atlas

Loss and restoration

The global area of mangroves, 150 000 square kilometers, is equivalent to the area of Suriname, or the state of Illinois, or half the area of the Philippines. Mangrove forests straddle land and sea and are found in 123 countries in tropical and subtropical regions.

The nations with the largest mangrove areas include Indonesia with 21 per cent of global mangroves, Brazil with 9 per cent, Australia 7 per cent, Mexico 5 per cent and Nigeria with 5 per cent.

The greatest drivers for mangrove forest loss are direct conversion to aquaculture, agriculture and urban land uses. Coastal zones are often densely populated and pressure for land intense. Where mangroves remain, they have often been degraded through over harvesting.

Where vast tracts of mangroves have been cleared for shrimp aquaculture, fast profits often left a legacy of long-term debts and poverty, which are hard to reverse.

According to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) mangrove losses have been considerable and are continuing. Some 35,600 square kilometers were lost between 1980 and 2005.

While there are no accurate estimates of the original cover, there is a general consensus that it would have been over 200,000 square kilometers and that considerably more than 50,000 square kilometers or one-quarter of original mangrove cover has been lost as a result of human intervention.

Mangroves have now been actively planted or encouraged to grow through activities such as site clearance and the removal of waste. Examples include Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Use and ecological niche

Mangroves contribute to livelihoods locally and globally by providing forest resources such as timber, firewood and thatching materials as well as non-timber products.

They are also recognized as an important greenbelt and carbon sink that protects coastal areas from natural disasters such as tsunamis, cyclones and erosion resulting from sea-level rise especially in small island countries.

There is good evidence that mangroves even reduced the impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in a number of locations.

There is also considerable storage of organic carbon in mangrove soils, meaning they may have an important role to play in the process of mitigating climate change. Preliminary estimates indicate that the total above-ground biomass for the world’s mangrove forests may be over 3700Tg of carbon, and that carbon sequestration directly into mangrove sediments is likely to be in the range of 14-17Tg of carbon per year.

Mangroves are also among the most important intertidal habitats for marine and coastal fisheries. Mangrove related species have been estimated to support 30 per cent of fish catch and almost 100 per cent of shrimp catch in South-East Asian countries, while mangroves and associated habitats in Queensland, Australia support 75 per cent of commercial fisheries species

Policy and solutions

The destruction of mangroves is often prompted by local decisions, market forces, industrial demand, population expansion or poverty. However, in many countries, the fate of mangroves is also determined by high level policy decisions.

In the Philippines, as an example, state-wide encouragement of aquaculture dating back to the 1950s led to massive losses. In Malaysia, by contrast, state ownership of mangroves prevails. While there have still been losses, large areas remain in forest reserves, managed for timber and charcoal production, with concomitant benefits for fisheries.

Trends of mangrove gain or loss can be rapidly and quite dramatically reversed. Laws addressing the placement of aquaculture standards or water quality pollution minimization have greatly altered the shape of new aquaculture developments in many countries.

New policies and projects have led to widespread mangrove plantation across the Philippines. Policies have led to the offsetting of mangrove loss by replanting or restoration with examples in Florida (US) and Australia.

Many countries, such as Mexico, Belize, Tanzania and Mozambique, have also established general legal protection for mangroves, controlling destructive activities through strict licensing systems.

The atlas brings together an unprecedented partnership of organizations, from forestry and conservation sectors and from across the United Nations, and includes a new and comprehensive map and account of mangrove forests.

Original Article And Learn More; UNEP

Mangroves Report Reveals Threats & Opportunities to Global Economy & the Planet; UNEP

Mangroves worldwide: a global loss of tidal forests, The National Geographic
Mostly because of coastal development, Earth has already lost perhaps as much as a quarter of its mangrove forests, and many species of mangrove plants are edging toward extinction. The remaining mangrove zones add up worldwide to no more than the area of the U.S. state of Illinois, and they shrink every year under the onslaught of development, pollution, and climate change.
The World Atlas of Mangroves published July 14th 2010, is the most comprehensive assessment of mangroves yet. It reveals “drastic loss to global economy and livelihoods,” the publishers said in a news release about the book.
More than 100 top international mangrove researchers and organizations provided data, reviews and other input. Spanish and French versions of the Atlas are being prepared.

Plastiki: a journey from plastic trash to triumph

The Plastiki reaching Sydney. Captions and Photo source: ©© Ars Electronica


A sailboat largely constructed from 12,500 recycled plastic bottles has completed a 4-month journey across the Pacific Ocean meant to raise awareness about the perils of plastic waste.

The Plastiki, a 60-foot (18-meter) catamaran, and its six crew weathered fierce ocean storms during its 8,000 nautical miles at sea. It left San Francisco on March 20, stopping along the way at various South Pacific island nations including Kiribati and Samoa. It docked Monday in Sydney Harbour.

De Rothschild, 31, said the idea for the journey came to him after he read a United Nations report in 2006 that said pollution, and particularly plastic waste, was seriously threatening the world’s oceans…

Read Full Article, Boston Online

Exploring Algae as Fuel

Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care


In a laboratory where almost all the test tubes look green, the tools of modern biotechnology are being applied to lowly pond scum.

Foreign genes are being spliced into algae and native genes are being tweaked.

Different strains of algae are pitted against one another in survival-of-the-fittest contests in an effort to accelerate the evolution of fast-growing, hardy strains.

The goal is nothing less than to create superalgae, highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel…

Read Full Article, The New York Times.

Deepwater Horizon alarms were switched off

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010. A Coast Guard MH-65C dolphin rescue helicopter and crew document the fire aboard the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon, while searching for survivors April 21, 2010. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon’s 126 person crew. Captions and Photo source: U.S. Coast Guard


Vital warning systems on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig were switched off at the time of the explosion in order to spare workers being woken by false alarms, a federal investigation has heard.

The revelation that alarm systems on the rig at the centre of the disaster were disabled, and that key safety mechanisms had also consciously been switched off, came in testimony by a chief technician working for Transocean, the drilling company that owned the rig…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

First scientific proof : Oil plumes definitely from BP’s well

Oil in the surf, Orange beach, Alabama, June 2010. Captions and Photo source: ©© David Rencher


Researchers in Florida say they have the first scientific proof that two plumes of oil beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico came from BP’s broken well.

University of South Florida scientists said Friday they linked the oil to BP’s well based on chemical tests of two plumes discovered in late May. BP initially denied the plumes even existed.

Federal researchers say concentrations of underwater oil have at least doubled since last month.

Figuring out the oil’s source is pivotal as the government assesses the environmental damage caused by the massive spill and how much BP will have to pay for it.

Read Full Article, The Washington Times

Qualified Good News on Subsea Dispersed Oil Plumes: Continued Low Oil Concentrations, No Dead Zones; Science Magazine

Second Federal Analysis Gives Further Clues about Location and Movement of Subsurface Oil; NOAA
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) today released its second peer-reviewed, analytical summary report about subsurface oil monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico. The report contains preliminary data collected at 227 sampling stations extending from one to 52 kilometers from the Deepwater Horizon/BP wellhead. Data shows movement of subsurface oil is consistent with ocean currents and that concentrations continue to be more diffuse as you move away from the source of the leak. This confirms the findings of the previous report.

Plastiki reaches Australia

The Plastiki reaching Sydney. Made of approximately 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and engineered using the most sustainable methods possible, the Plastiki is meant to be used as a platform upon which solutions to the myriad of environmental problems can be found. Particularly, the Plastiki is hoping to raise awareness about single-use consumer products that are filling landfills and the sea. Photo source: ©© Ars Electronica


After spending 125 days traveling over 8,000 nautical miles, the Plastiki is preparing to reach Sydney, its final destination, on Sunday.

The Plastiki’s arrival in Sydney will not, however, be the 60-foot catamaran’s first time to reach Australian soil. Winter storms producing near-hurricane strength winds forced the vessel and its crew to take refuge in Mooloolaba, Queensland on Monday.
Originally, the crew had hoped to land in Coffs Harbour, south from Mooloolaba, before heading to Sydney. After waiting out the bad weather, the Plastiki took off from its unexpected first port-of-call in Australia early Friday morning with hopes to reach Sydney in the next two days.

Read Full Article, CNN

Indian Ocean Sea Level Rise Threatens Millions

Indian Ocean
This image shows the key player in the process, the Indo-Pacific warm pool, in bright orange. This enormous, bathtub-shaped area spans a region of the tropical oceans from the east coast of Africa to the International Date Line in the Pacific. The warm pool has heated by about 1 degree Fahrenheit, or 0.5 degrees Celsius, in the past 50 years, primarily because of human-generated emissions of greenhouses gases.I mage Source: NASA Earth Observatory


Newly detected rising sea levels in parts of the Indian Ocean, including the coastlines of the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java, appear to be at least partly a result of human-induced increases of atmospheric greenhouse gases, says a study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The study, which combined sea surface measurements going back to the 1960s and satellite observations, indicates anthropogenic climate warming likely is amplifying regional sea rise changes in parts of the Indian Ocean, threatening inhabitants of some coastal areas and islands, said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Weiqing Han, lead study author. The sea level rise, which may aggravate monsoon flooding in Bangladesh and India, could have far-reaching impacts on both future regional and global climate.

The key player in the process is the Indo-Pacific warm pool, an enormous, bathtub-shaped area of the tropical oceans stretching from the east coast of Africa west to the International Date Line in the Pacific. The warm pool has heated by about 1 degree Fahrenheit, or 0.5 degrees Celsius, in the past 50 years, primarily caused by human-generated increases of greenhouse gases, said Han…

Read Full Article, Science Daily

Article in, UC Arts and Sciences Magazine

The Second Life of Green Algae

Photo source: ©© Tristan Schmurr

The second life of green algae
English Translation

Harmful when covering the beaches, green algae can be valued. If the application on fields for fertilization purposes, remains the largest market, other sectors are growing.

No less than 60,000 m3 of green algae have been collected in Britain last year. It is a huge slap for the communities in charge of coastal cleanup, a terrible hindrance for the tourism industry, as tourists have fled the beaches. But what happens to these tons of plants once removed from the beaches? Several options exist to benefit from this invasive material.

An effective fertilizer
The spreading is the main outlet of Ulva lactuca and concerns 80% of the collected “green lettuce”. This technique involves depositing fresh seaweed, rich in nitrogen, on the agricultural parcels as fertilizer. It is effective and inexpensive as no prior treatment is required. The method has its limitations, however: the transfer from the beach to the land must be fast, to keep the algae’s freshness. For this very reason, the destination should not be too far from the pickup location. At La Lieue de Grève in, les Côtes d’Armor, “the trucks do not go beyond a 25 km radius” says Briant Gwenaëlle, coordinator of the local watershed.

The farmer using this type of fertilization is also required to sign an agreement to carefully monitor all added levels of nitrogen induced by algae, and to record these levels in order to respect the soil pH, said Gwenaëlle Briant. For the same reason, the same parcel may be fertilized with green algae only once every five years.

The other major outlet for Ulva is to be mixed with other green plants to produce compost. It is a more expensive solution as external service providers are necessary. Nevertheless, this solution is particularly popular in the late spring, when fertilization is not possible in the fields covered with crops. Composting green algae however, has the advantage of giving an economic value to a free commodity. And contrary to traditional fertilization, the compost can be used by everyone without constraints.

A difficult product to capitalize on
Interesting from a composition standpoint , however, algae are difficult to use at the industrial level, since their production is irregular and unpredictable. And many challenges exist in their treatements .
They must be treated within 3-4 days after reaching the beach to avoid rotting. They are hardly transportable since they contain so much water. Sand also must be removed after algae are picked up on the beach, a tricky process. But once reduced to flour consistency or cake, the ulva sees its value explode: 2000-3000 per ton.

Once “stabilized” green algae is eligible for a number of industrial processes. The green algae may be used in the manufacture of many products. Cosmetics, chemicals, materials such as cardboard or plastics, food for animals, even for humans.

Another possible avenue, is production of energy. “The process of methanation, in which the algae, in contact with bacteria, give off gas and thus produce energy, is already studied in Japan. The problem is that its performance is not great and it emits sulfur, corrosive to the facilities, “said Yannick Lerat. The production of bioethanol, a fuel made of green algae, is also the subject of several investigations in France. “For now, the yield is only 10 or 20%. It should be up to 50%, “notes the expert.

Investments remain limited in this area because “it is difficult to build an industry on a resource where eradication is ultimately sought after ” says Yannick Lerat. “We prefer to invest in preventive action, but a business model is beginning to emerge.” The key to success, however, relies on the coordination of actions by various local authorities, says he. “What is lacking is a supply chain organization. If everyone does things in his corner, it does not take off. ”

Original Article: “La deuxième vie des algues vertes” Le Figaro

China launches armada to head off algae plume; Guardian UK
Chinese authorities have dispatched a flotilla of more than 60 ships to head off a massive tide of algae that is approaching the coast of Qingdao.The outbreak is thought to be caused by high ocean temperatures and excess nitrogen runoff from agriculture and fish farms.