BLZ - Belize Shows How Healthy Mangroves Can Help Countries Mitigate, Adapt to Climate Change
Preserving these coastal wetlands carries wide range of other benefits, expert says.
Mangrove forests are some of the most important ecosystems on our planet. Mangroves protect coastlines from the full impacts of waves and storm surges, provide nursery and feeding grounds for myriad species, and help mitigate climate change by storing three to five times more carbon in their soil per acre than other tropical forests.
In celebration of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on July 26, The Pew Charitable Trusts caught up with Leandra Cho-Ricketts, a Belizean marine ecologist and co-founder of the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute (UB ERI). Cho-Ricketts is the administrative director of UB ERI and leads the coastal resilience program. She is a member on several national committees and networks, providing technical and scientific advice on marine resources management, and is working on a new Pew-funded research project focused on quantifying the carbon value of mangroves in Belize. The data from this project will be used to support Belize’s future climate commitments. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: What spurred your interest in marine conservation, and specifically protections for mangroves and other coastal habitats?
A: As a Belizean with strong ties to the ocean, I have seen the urgent need for conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources, the greatest wealth our country has. The marine environment plays a central role in our economy, culture, and overall societal well-being. Coastal habitats like mangrove forests support livelihoods through fisheries and tourism and offer us protection from catastrophic weather events, but they are also some of the most threatened ecosystems on our planet. I wanted to study and protect mangroves to ensure that they remain intact to provide these important ecosystem services for generations of Belizeans to come.