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Cancun’s Vanishing Mangroves Hold Climate Promise

Posted by Lindy on November 25, 2010


Date: 25-Nov-10 – Country: MEXICO – Author: Patrick Rucker

http://planetark.org/wen/60349

A view of a dying mangrove swamp in Puerto Morelos, near the Yucatan resort of Cancun, June 25, 2008. Photo: Reuters/Victor Ruiz

This famous beach resort, which will next week host international climate change talks, was itself born from the destruction of a potent resource to fight global warming. Thick mangrove forests lined the canals and waterways here before developers dredged the land to make way for the upscale hotels that now draw several million tourists every year. In the 40 years since Cancun was founded, countless acres of mangrove forests up and down Mexico’s Caribbean Coast have been lost — and the destruction continues.

Now many scientists say that mangrove forests can help slow climate change, and are desperate to save them. “We still have a lot to learn but the potential is huge for mangroves,” said Gail Chmura, a climate change researcher at McGill University in Montreal who studies how much carbon is stored in these knobby, tidal forests.

The United Nations may soon pay countries to set aside mangroves and sea plants that sock away carbon and those same reserves could mean long-term cash under a global carbon cap and trade scheme.

Breathing life into that carbon market is a key goal of climate talks among almost 200 nations meeting in Cancun from November 29 to December 10. The meeting is a follow-up to the December 2009 Copenhagen summit which disappointed many nations by falling short of a binding treaty to slow global warming.

Besides their power to sponge up carbon, mangroves serve as fish nurseries and buffers for devastating ocean storms — a worth that ecologists say is lost in a short-term tally of the land’s value.

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