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The potential of Indonesian mangrove forests for global climate change mitigation

Nature Climate Change volume 5, pages 10891092 (2015) | Download Citation


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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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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  1. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Jl. CIFOR, Situgede, Bogor 16115, Indonesia

    • Daniel Murdiyarso
    • , Joko Purbopuspito
    • , Sigit D. Sasmito
    •  & Sofyan Kurnianto
  2. Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, Bogor Agricultural University, Kampus Darmaga, Bogor 16680, Indonesia

    • Daniel Murdiyarso
  3. Department of Soil Science, Sam Ratulangi University, Kampus Kleak—Bahu, Manado 95115, Indonesia

    • Joko Purbopuspito
  4. Oregon State University, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Nash Hall Rm 104, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

    • J. Boone Kauffman
    •  & Sofyan Kurnianto
  5. USDA Forest Service, 271 Mast Rd, Durham, New Hampshire 03824, USA

    • Matthew W. Warren
  6. School of Environmental and Forest Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

    • Daniel C. Donato
  7. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

    • Solichin Manuri
  8. Research and Development Center for Conservation and Rehabilitation, Forestry Research and Development Agency, Jl. Gunung Batu 5, Bogor 16610, Indonesia

    • Haruni Krisnawati
  9. University of Papua, Manokwari 98314, Indonesia

    • Sartji Taberima


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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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel Murdiyarso.

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