In Kenya and Elsewhere Saving Mangroves Can Save the Planet
In tropical and subtropical regions worldwide - from the Florida’s Everglades to West Africa’s coastlines - mangroves have proven their importance to environmental, social and economic resilience. Yet mangroves have disappeared at a global annual rate of 1% to 2%, reaching 35% in the last two decades - a direct result of human activity, overexploitation and rising sea levels. Today, these hardy trees cover less than 3% of the Earth, penetrating saltwater and muddy soil with their complex, knotty root systems. Greenhouse gases get trapped in the atmosphere, ramp up global warming, penetrate ecosystems, spread diseases and hinder agricultural growth. Meanwhile, volatile organic compounds from cars, industrial facilities and power plants form ozone that lowers air quality and generates a thick layer of smog. However, recent studies show mangroves can sequester 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon — significantly higher than previous estimates. In Kenya - where 19,000 people die from air pollution annually — having a natural carbon sink as powerful as mangroves is critical for safeguarding public health.