Mangroves are key coastal ecosystems that furnish valuable goods and services including water quality control, nursery habitats and storm protection. Additionally like other forests, mangroves have high rates of primary productivity and sequester (i.e., take up) large amounts of atmospheric carbon. Mangroves thus function as critical global sinks for carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas), and their conservation and restoration can play an important role in climate change mitigation in developing countries.
Payment for ecosystem services, such as the global climate change carbon trading market, has the potential to support rural communities in tropical countries, to protect and restore of their mangrove forests. By giving rural communities a direct economic stake in the protection and sustainable use of their mangroves, carbon offset credits may allow communities to reduce not only their socioeconomic vulnerability but also achieve greater resilience towards future external shocks.
This project proposes to develop a ‘roadmap’ for the Solomon Island government and local communities to navigate through the options and methodologies for developing a mangrove carbon offset system for Solomon Island mangroves.
Three coastal villages in Solomon Islands were chosen to represent different models with respect to carbon credits; 1) an area of replanted mangroves; 2) an area with low human population density and low mangrove harvest; and 3) an area with high population density and high intensity of mangrove harvesting.
To understand how mangrove payments for ecosystem services may unfold in developing island communities, an understanding of the perceptions, use and benefits of mangrove ecosystems goods and services is crucial. Also important for anticipating the impact these payments may have is the documentation and assessment of the governance and user rights systems surrounding mangroves. The first part of this study assesses these aspects in the three study communities.
The second part of the study assesses the carbon biomass of the mangrove trees and soils, this data will be used to understand the impact of the different models on the mangrove carbon biomass and the carbon offset evaluations.
National capacity building includes training of staff in survey methods and field techniques, and collaboration in the study on carbon credits and climate change legislation. Local capacity building involves extensive community and NGO participation in project field activities, workshops and presentations.
The project researches the nexus of climate change, biodiversity conservation, payments for environmental services and poverty alleviation. As the first project in the Solomon Islands to explore opportunities for obtaining carbon credits for mangrove protection and rural livelihood diversification, it will serve as a practical blueprint for protecting the estimated 50,000 hectares of mangroves nationwide.