Mexican mangrove forests store stored carbon for 5,000 years

(ORDO NEWS) — A research team led by the University of California at Riverside and the University of California at San Diego has shown that mangroves off the coast of La Paz in Mexico absorb and retain carbon for 5,000 years.

This makes mangroves one of the main ecosystems on Earth that really reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Mangroves not only absorb carbon, they don’t release it.

Mangroves are unique ecosystems. They are widely distributed in tropical and equatorial climatic zones. Mangroves grow along gently sloping seashores, usually in the tidal zone.

They are able to survive in salt water, which periodically floods them. Mangroves have vertical roots that provide them with air. No other trees can live in such conditions.

A team of scientists led by the University of California at Riverside and the University of California at San Diego explored mangroves off the coast of La Paz in Mexico.

Scientists have studied how mangroves absorb and release nitrogen and carbon. These processes are largely controlled by microbes, and the team wanted to know what kind of bacteria and fungi live there.

The team expected that the carbon would be found in the peat layer under the forest, but the scientists did not expect these peatlands to be 5,000 years old.

Mangroves capture carbon almost forever

Mexican mangrove forests store stored carbon for 5000 years 2
Environmentalist Matthew Costa in a mangrove forest in Mexico

“What’s special about these mangrove forests is not even that they absorb carbon very quickly, but that they retain it for so long,” said Emma Aronson, environmental microbiologist and lead author of the study. “Mangroves store orders of magnitude more carbon than most other ecosystems in the region.”

The peat under the mangroves is a combination of submerged sediments and partially decomposed organic matter. In some areas analyzed by scientists, the peat layer extended to about 3-4 meters below sea level.

Very little oxygen gets into the deepest layers of peat, which is probably why there are no fungi in it. Oxygen is needed by most fungi that specialize in the breakdown of carbon compounds.

More than a thousand species of bacteria live under the mangroves, which consume and excrete various chemical elements.

Many of them operate in extreme conditions with low or no oxygen. However, these bacteria do not break down carbon compounds.

In terms of the amount of accumulated carbon and the time of its conservation, only permafrost can be compared with mangrove forests.

But she melts. And mangrove forests continue their work: they accumulate and conserve atmospheric carbon.

“If we let these forests continue to function, if we don’t cut them down, they can hold on to the carbon they have sequestered from our atmosphere almost forever,” says co-author Matthew Costa. “These mangroves play an important role in climate change mitigation.”


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