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The potential of Indonesian mangrove forests for global climate change mitigation


Mangroves provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including nutrient cycling, soil formation, wood production, fish spawning grounds, ecotourism and carbon (C) storage1. High rates of tree and plant growth, coupled with anaerobic, water-logged soils that slow decomposition, result in large long-term C storage. Given their global significance as large sinks of C, preventing mangrove loss would be an effective climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy. It has been reported that C stocks in the Indo-Pacific region contain on average 1,023 MgC ha−1 (ref. 2). Here, we estimate that Indonesian mangrove C stocks are 1,083 ± 378 MgC ha−1. Scaled up to the country-level mangrove extent of 2.9 Mha (ref. 3), Indonesia’s mangroves contained on average 3.14 PgC. In three decades Indonesia has lost 40% of its mangroves4, mainly as a result of aquaculture development5. This has resulted in annual emissions of 0.07–0.21 Pg CO2e. Annual mangrove deforestation in Indonesia is only 6% of its total forest loss6; however, if this were halted, total emissions would be reduced by an amount equal to 10–31% of estimated annual emissions from land-use sectors at present. Conservation of carbon-rich mangroves in the Indonesian archipelago should be a high-priority component of strategies to mitigate climate change.

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Figure 1: Averaged values of soil properties.
Figure 2: Ecosystem C stocks of mangroves partitioned into dominant pools from eight regions of Indonesia.
Figure 3: Mangrove carbon dynamics in 10 selected countries.

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This work is supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). D. Sheil provided useful comments on an earlier draft. We are also grateful to officials from Sembilang, Bunaken and Tanjung Puting National Parks for their assistance, without which the field work could have not been performed. We would also like to thank the many technicians, students and villagers who assisted in data collection in the field.

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Authors and Affiliations



D.M. conceived and designed the study, collected field data, performed data analyses and led the writing of the paper. J.P. collected field data, performed data analyses and contributed to writing. J.B.K. also conceived and designed the study, collected field data and contributed to analysis and writing. M.W.W. collected field data and contributed to writing. S.D.S. contributed to data collection, data analysis and writing. D.C.D. contributed to data collection and writing. S.M. collected field data and contributed to writing. H.K. collected field data and contributed to writing. S.T. collected field data and contributed to writing. S.K. contributed to data collection and writing.

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Correspondence to Daniel Murdiyarso.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Murdiyarso, D., Purbopuspito, J., Kauffman, J. et al. The potential of Indonesian mangrove forests for global climate change mitigation. Nature Clim Change 5, 1089–1092 (2015).

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