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Earth's Superplant: Mangroves vs. Climate Change

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A boat sailing through a thick mangrove forest

Tom Fisk [15]

We’ve been fighting against climate change for years, from reducing the usage of single-use plastics to developing hi-tech innovation like Direct Air Capture [1]. Fighting climate change is a teamwork and every little thing we do matters, but the bigger the help the more significant the result will be.

Mangrove conservation is one of the few practices that has significantly reduced our carbon print, so let’s get to know them better!

What is a mangrove?

Mangroves, as US National Ocean Service explains, is a group of trees and shrubs that live in a coastal zone [2]. Analogically speaking, mangrove is like a castle wall, it protects everything and everyone living on the land from any natural threat coming from the waterbed such as harsh waves, bad storms, and land erosion.

Where do mangroves grow?

Bird-view mangroves

Waranont Joe [16]

We have rainforests on the land, coral reefs under the water, and mangroves in between. When water meets land with soil underneath, that is where you can find mangroves [3]. They are scattered across the globe, but exclusive to places with rather warm temperature [4].

Indonesia has very long coastlines with warm weather all year long, hence it is only natural for mangroves to grow here. In fact, 20% out of mangroves in the whole word are in Indonesia [5]. Although despite the great number, only 18% from 100% are in good condition [6].

Then, what makes mangrove different from other plants?

Their adaptive system is what makes mangroves different. The plant can live in saltwater and freshwater, but they are more commonly found in saltwater areas [7]. Most plants cannot live in saltwater, but mangrove’s unique coping system allows them to thrive instead, even if the water is 100 times saltier than what other plants can tolerate [8]. Some mangroves exclude the salt before it could enter the body, while others excess it from their pores in the form of crystallized salt, which is completely amazing [9].

How do mangroves fight against climate change?

Mangroves store carbons up to five times higher than other inland plants. In fact, a study reveals they hold 3 billion more carbons than a tropical forest [10]. Mangroves also absorb CO2 and store it within their soil for years.

There are 39 metric tons of carbons per hectare of mangroves, which is the same number of emissions we can get from 59 motorbikes [11]. As reported by Vox, about 7.2 million acres of mangroves in Indonesia alone significantly reduce global carbon levels and if released into the atmosphere can raise the temperature by 1.5 degrees which puts it at a dangerous level [12]. IPCC studies that when the increase of global temperature is above that number, many apocalyptic scenarios may unfold: 1.7 billion people may experience heatwave per five years, sea levels will increase by 10 cm, and 99% of coral reefs may be gone [13]. If you don’t understand how important the coral reefs are, please read it here.

What have we done for mangrove?

A lot, both fortunately and unfortunately. On the bright side, Indonesia’s government has been building and protecting mangroves conservation in many areas, as far as making them the subjects for ecotourism. Angke Kapuk in Jakarta Utara, Banyuurip Mangrove Park in Gresik, and Mangrove Forest in Tarakan are only a few names of hundreds of Indonesian mangrove conservations. The governments also have been aiding mangroves rehabilitation and revitalization, although this is useless if the rate of reckless fishponds along the coastlines are also increasing.

On the dark side, the news of locals cutting down mangroves in order to build fishponds are common. The latest tragedy happened in April, where 3 hectares of a mangrove forest named Lantebung in Makassar was gone [14]. It all happened when the local citizens were at home, practicing social distancing to avoid coronavirus, while a local company called PT Tompo Dalle were destroying the plants with two excavators.

What can you do to save mangroves?

A long pathway in between bushy mangroves [17]

Spread awareness about the importance of mangroves is the first thing to do. If you feel like seeing the beauty of this blue forest you can always visit the nearest mangrove parks, giving them more funds by buying the tickets and spreading awareness by updating your Instagram feeds while you visit.

You can also follow up news from Forest Watch Indonesia or even directly plant mangroves as a volunteer for non-profit organizations such as Kemangteer and Wahana Mangrove Indonesia.


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Editor: Christopher Randy






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