A “dirty expedition”:Discovering Indonesia’s mangrovesPhoto story by Kate Evans
From Sumatera to Papua, Indonesia’s coastlines are fringed with mangroves.With three million hectares of this unique forest ecosystem, Indonesia’s estuaries and bays shelter nearly a quarter of all of the world’s remaining mangroves.
Mangroves protect coastlines from high seas, provide nurseries for young fish and are a habitat for many unique species.
Recent CIFOR research has discovered these ecosystems also store three times as much carbon as other tropical forests.is is partly because mangroves produce large quantities of leaves, which fall and decay as leaf litter, trapping the carbon in their rich soils.
But if the mangroves are cut down – for shrimp farms, for example, a major threat in Indonesia – all that carbon is released into the atmosphere.
is means more research into mangroves, carbon and climate change is urgent.A team of scientists is currently trying to find out exactly how much carbon is stored in diﬀerent mangrove ecosystems.
To maximise the time available for work, the team have to enter the forest while the tide is still high.
First, they need to measure out a transect 150 metres long, with 6 plots along it - each a circle with a radius of 7 metres.
e team records measurements of the trees, as well as the soil PH, and the size and number of woody debris lying in the mud.
All parts of the ecosystem in the plot need to be measured and weighed.
e scientists take samples of each part of the tree.ey’ll be taken back to the lab to be analysed for their carbon content.
Mangroves have two kinds of roots – aboveground or ‘prop’ roots that support the tree in the tides, and below-ground roots. is expedition is especially focussed on determining the carbon content of the little-studied below- ground roots.
Extracting the roots from the thick mud is no easy task.
en they are separated into above-ground and below-ground sections, and weighed.
e entire tree must be dismembered – a destructive process but necessary if the scientists are to measure every part – and gain information that may help save many more mangroves.
It’s a job requiring care, accuracy – and brute strength.
We are doing science in a dirty way” says expedition leader Joko Purbopuspito.But the mud, mosquitoes and eﬀort are worth it, he says, if CIFOR can learn valuable information about this special ecosystem.
is work is part of theCGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by USAID. For more information on CIFOR’s wetlands research visit: www.cifor.org/swamp