Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

The importance of conserving of Kenya’s seagrass meadows

  • Written by  Ella Taibel
  • Published in Climate
The importance of conserving of Kenya’s seagrass meadows
20 Jun
2017
Compared to other types of carbon sink, seagrass in Kenya can absorb 35 times more carbon – a fact that is helping to kick-start poverty alleviation schemes in the region

In order to control the climate and mitigate climate change, carbon sinks are a vital part and process of the planet. This is due to their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and, after some time, slowly release it back into the atmosphere.

Now, a team of scientists from Edinburgh Napier University and East Africa, led by Professor Mark Huxham, has uncovered that underwater seagrass meadows, in southern Kenya’s Gazi Bay, absorb more carbon than other land-based carbon sinks, such as rainforests. Huxham and his team scientists discovered that ‘seagrass in Kenya locks in 50 per cent more carbon than is typical for seagrass meadows elsewhere.’ This indicates the important role that seagrass sites could play in the fight against climate change.

shutterstock 617812652Exposed seagrass meadow in Kenya (Image: Shutterstock)

The seagrass meadows and mangroves found in Gazi Bay are ‘blue carbon sinks’ as they are living coastal and marine organisms. Seagrasses are easily mistaken for seaweed but are actually closer in relation to flowering plants found on land. They are known as being one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet due to the shelter they provide the animals that live within it and the services they provide to humans such as carbon storing.

shutterstock 448581697Seagrass underwater, an example of blue carbon sinks (Image: Shutterstock)

The outcome of Huxham’s project, funded by Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation is that the seagrass meadows have the ability to absorb 35 times more atmospheric carbon than any land-based sinks such as tropical-rainforests. Furthermore, the meadows in Gazi Bay re-release the carbon at a much slower rate.

With great powers, though, comes great responsibility. Conserving the seagrass must become a priority locally and also globally. Huxham stresses this point: ‘conserving the seagrass bed is not only for nature’s sake. It is also about conserving that ecosystem to ensure sustainability of the fisheries and to improve people’s livelihoods in the long-term.’

3872An example of how the conservation projects can help to alleviate poverty (Image: The Guardian)

Despite the fact that seagrasses are located in the Diani-Chale Marine Reserve and have a protected status, they are still under a degree of threat. The research indicates how human actions such as dragnet fishing, pollution, dredging and, specifically, the use of seine nets – fishing nets used to haul large quantities of marine life – have put the ecosystems under severe pressure. The buzzing tourism scene, which is encouraged due to the Marine Reserve, potentially exacerbates this degradation. This reveals some interesting yet relevant dichotomies in that the ‘eco-tourism’ industry is harming the environment the tourists are attracted to and the marginalised locals are having to protect this land from the richer visitors.

Huxham’s study highlights the importance of conserving the seagrasses and the other ecosystems in the Kwale District, in regards to the local population as well. Having a thriving ecosystem ensures that the marginalised and poverty-stricken locals have resources such as fish to buy and sell, thereby granting the community long-term food and economic security. With the new research released, Huxham has been talking to the local people about creating another Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme, similar to the one that’s successfully maintaining and protecting mangroves nearby.

Benefits of carbon funds 1Some of the benefits that arise from the PES schemes, include children having books for school (Image: planvivo.org)

The existing PES scheme is called Mikoko Pamja meaning ‘Mangroves Together’ and was created as a joint initiative in 2013 between Gazi Bay villagers, volunteers, and institutions from the UK and Kenya. It relied on the villagers monitoring the growth and biodiversity in the mangroves and planting seeds four times a year. This kind of scheme appears wildly popular among the locals because they reap the benefits of better and bountiful fish stocks. For example, one villager, in an article for the Guardian, exclaims, ‘Since we started caring for the mangroves, we harvest more and more fish... Now, fishermen from as far off as Pemba [an island of the Zanzibar archipelago] come to fish here.’

The scheme also gives agency to the marginalised population because they choose how to spend the revenue, often investing in their children’s education. The prospect of having two projects within the Gazi Bay area that can help fend against climate change, as well as helping to develop the community, is therefore seen as an exciting one for bringing further benefits to the region.

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Energy

A project in Orkney is converting excess wind energy into…

Geophoto

Mountains provide a dramatic sight at the best of times,…

Wildlife

A surge in reports of dead hares has resulted in…

Oceans

Four scientists have banded together to make the case against the farming of octopuses, arguing…

Climate

As planetary oil consumption hits the 100-million-barrel mark Marco Magrini…

Oceans

A ship that ran aground early in February has been…

Wildlife

Two whale populations on either side of the African continent…

Geophoto

March traditionally heralds the beginning of spring, a time of…

Wildlife

An innovative project to utilise Laos’ elephant experts in service…

Polar

Despite common belief that Antarctica is vastly uninhabited, humans are…

Wildlife

Javan rhinos survived the recent Krakatoa tsunami, but the species…

Energy

As the world turns away from fossil fuels, one question…

Geophoto

The winners of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2018…

Climate

New legislation in Florida aims to solve various environmental issues,…

Polar

The world’s magnetic model is getting an early update, as…

Climate

Marco Magrini looks at the financial pressures spilling out into the…

Geophoto

Few sights are more dramatic than a star-filled sky at…

Polar

A region of Antarctica previously known for relative stability is…

Tectonics

Everything we thought we knew about eruptions could be wrong

Oceans

Sea levels are rising across the globe, but along the…