Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought

Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought

Mangroves, the dense tangled forests that buffer land from sea in many coastal areas of the tropics, are renowned for their ability to store carbon and help fight climate change. But new research finds mangroves may emit more carbon as methane than previously estimated – emissions made even worse by deforestation. The ability of mangroves to sequester carbon in the ground – termed “blue carbon” – is unparalleled, with previous research finding a tract of mangrove can bury 40 times more carbon than a similarly sized area of rainforest. But what exactly happens to this carbon once it’s in the ground has been something of a mystery. So scientists at universities in Australia decided to find out by examining the soil carbon stored beneath mangroves in Queensland. Dr. Judith Rosentreter, a coauthor of the study, in a mangrove creek in North Queensland, Australia. Her research interest are in carbon cycling and greenhouse gas emissions from mangrove ecosystems. Photo by Jacob Yeo Their results, published in Science Advances, reveal that mangrove soil carbon doesn’t remain stored in perpetuity. Some of it is transformed from carbon dioxide (CO2) to methane (CH4) by tiny microorganisims called archea, and is then released back into the atmosphere. Methane has a much bigger warming impact than carbon dioxide – 34 to 86 times more powerful – so even a bit of methane has the potential to offset mangrove CO2 storage. Ultimately, the team found that the methane released from mangrove soil carbon offsets blue carbon burial…

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