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Carbon Neutered

Carbon Neutered

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Published by Rory Coen
Rory Coen investigates the Floating Mangroves research project which is about to start at Lusail Marina, Doha. Benno Boer from UNESCO explained what was at stake.
Rory Coen investigates the Floating Mangroves research project which is about to start at Lusail Marina, Doha. Benno Boer from UNESCO explained what was at stake.

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Published by: Rory Coen on May 05, 2013
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09/16/2013

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affairs > local > tag this development

Carbon Neutered
some questions to be answered in further research

01
How much sea surface do we have available in the world for floating mangroves?

02
How many tonnes of carbon can be sequestrated? How much nitrogen, potassium and phosphate can be taken out of the water?

03
How much would it cost?

04
What are the anticipated environmental impacts of thousands and thousands of square kilometres of these floating mangroves? How would that impact the temperature of the water underneath?

05
What other coastal areas are suitable for mangrove plantation, such as sabkhat , (salt flats) for example?

62 > qatar today > may 2013

By Rory Coen

Experts on biodiversity understand the immeasurable service that mangroves provide in reducing carbon levels in the atmosphere. Attempts are being made to conserve them in areas where they survive naturally, are ongoing and a new project supporting the growth of floating mangroves is now under way at Lusail Marina. The experiment is the first of its kind to investigate the use of floating mangroves for carbon sequestration – the capturing of carbon emissions.
qatar today > may 2013 > 63

development > tag this
Benno Boer, Ecological Sciences Adviser for the Arab Region at UNESCO (third left) stands with other officials at the Lusail Marina last month.

Mangroves carbon sequestration potential is

times greater than tropical forests and

M

times that of the temperate forests

I

million km2 ocean surface, but only

%

is suitable due to temperature and nutrient availability

angrove forests are a unique and rich ecosystem found along intertidal coastlines at tropical and subtropical latitudes. In Qatar, there are approximately ten mangrove sites concentrated in the east, north and northwest of the country, most notably in Al Khor. The plants play a major role in climate change mitigation: their carbon sequestration potential is 50 times greater than that of tropical forests and 10 times that of the temperate forests found in Northern Europe. According to research by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), they can absorb up to 1.5 tonnes of carbon per year per hectare. However, their presence is being compromised by a number of factors such as coastal development projects, oil spillages and pollution by solid waste like plastic, aluminium and glass. Where once they covered 32 million hectares worldwide, they now cover only 15 million. But while their presence is declining across the world, and indeed the Gulf, places such as Eritrea and Abu Dhabi have dedicated resources to reversing this trend. It’s hoped that Qatar will follow their lead. “I read in the Gulf Times some months ago that Qatar has an annual CO2 equivalent emission of 85 million tonnes of carbon,” said Benno Boer, UNESCO’s Ecological Sciences Adviser for the Arab Region.

“However, one hectare of mangroves can only sequestrate 1.5 million tonnes per year. So if we extrapolate that, then we come to the conclusion that in Qatar alone we would need a surface of 600,000 square kilometres of mangroves to sequestrate the total carbon output of one year. But we can continue that for about 500 years, because each hectare of mangrove sediment can store up to 700 tonnes of carbon in the sediment. “Awareness, management and conservation plans need to be developed, in order to generate the needed attention with top-level political support. Abu Dhabi deserves applause, because it is very active in mangrove development since the 1970s, and is one of the few countries in the world that actually shows an increase in mangrove coverage, and this is based on political will and understanding,” he continued. Climate tolerant These ecosystems can thrive in hot dry climates without any supply of fresh water because they are “halophytic“ or seawater-tolerant plants. Qatari-owned company Mourjan Marinas IGY approached UNESCO last year about the possibility of putting mangroves into floating containers on their jetty so they wouldn’t have to use fresh water to irrigate them – the seawater could percolate up from below. Their question intrigued the global agency. “In the past, some have suggested producing mangroves in inland deserts under seawater irrigation to make the deserts

64 > qatar today > may 2013

INFOGRAPH: KRANTHI REDDY

info world's 10 most mangrove-rich countries [September 2010]

green,” said Boer. “However, this is a controversial approach due to the dangers of irreversible salinisation of soils and ground water, as well as habitat loss. This floating mangroves experiment is totally unique and suggests an alternative method which has not yet grasped the attention of the climate change movement.” Boer had to emphasise the scale of what could be achieved. Floating mangroves could potentially cover millions of hectares of the coastal sub-tropical and tropical oceans. So from a simple idea of using the seawater in a jetty to irrigate mangroves, it could propagate into covering millions of hectares of the sub-tropical oceans. It could be a chance to sequester carbon and to do it profitably as well. “Floating mangroves can be developed into large-scale cash crop systems in the sub-tropical and tropical coastal oceans of the world, such as biofuel and livestock fodder, generating jobs, income and profit,” continued Boer, “but we really need to study the impact of this proposal more. We need to develop specific prototypes and study how much carbon they can really seques-

"Awareness, management and conservation plans need to be developed, in order to generate the needed attention with top-level political support. Abu Dhabi deserves applause, because it is very active in mangrove development since the 1970s, and is one of the few countries in the world that actually shows an increase in mangrove coverage, and this is based on political will and understanding."
Benno boer, Ecological Science Adviser for Arab Region, unesco

trate and how much nitrogen, potassium and phosphate they can get out of the sea. We need to see what engineering and design to apply, as well as conduct feasibility studies. We must find very good university students for this, otherwise it won’t work.” At least five Qatar University students are expected to develop medium-scale prototypes in the second phase of the activity. The floating mangroves can be viewed in their planter boxes at Lusail Marina, Lusail City. “The conservation of the local environment and being as eco-friendly as we can is extremely important to Mourjan Marinas IGY,“ said Wayne Sheperd, the company’s General Manager. “We care to ensure that all of our marinas are built and maintained with the greatest sensitivity to the local environment. “For a long time it has been Mourjan’s vision to have this break-through initiative incorporated into the design and construction of our marinas, and we are delighted to partner with UNESCO and Lusail Real Estate Development Company to make it a reality. We are very excited”
qatar today > may 2013 > 65

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