THE towering trees in Gabon’s impenetrable mangrove swamps have helped to make the Central African country one of the world’s few net absorbers of carbon as the plants sequester the greenhouse gas four times faster than forests on land.
While the world struggles to curb climate change and U.N. talks on the issue begin at the end of the month, countries such as Gabon are trying to work out exactly how much carbon is locked in their mangroves.
“We do not really have a lot of information on the mangrove forests compared to the terra firma forests,” said Vincent Medjibe, who collects carbon data for Gabon’s National Parks Agency. “We’re working on it.”
Across the estuary from the mangrove-rich Pongara National Park, the growing capital Libreville exemplifies the threat mangroves face. In one outer neighbourhood, dry tussocks and muddy holes are what remain of a former swamp that has been illegally cleared for construction.
As well as storing carbon, the swamps are rich in wildlife and serve as natural flood defences.