Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is a major contributor to climate change and CO2 levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years. The annual rate of increase of CO2 over the past 60 years is about 100 times faster than previous natural increases. Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass beds are highly effective at capturing and storing this carbon – “blue carbon” – for hundreds, even thousands of years. In 2017, the DoE commissioned a report on the economic value of the Islands’ natural resources. It estimated that the Islands’ carbon storage potential of seagrasses and mangroves was up to 3.5 million metric tonnes/megagrams, with the highest carbon storage potential in the mangrove ecosystems on Grand Cayman.
Unfortunately mangroves are under threat globally, internationally and locally and once they are significantly disturbed or destroyed their carbon storage potential is lost. The diagram below shows that since 1976, 72% of mangrove wetlands on the west side of Grand Cayman have been lost to development. Mangroves provide many other benefits such as shelter for marine organisms, habitat for birds and coastal protection against erosion and storm surges.
Natural resources provide the first line of defense against climate change, helping to mitigate the impacts of rising sea levels, floods, droughts and coastal erosion. Coral reefs, seagrass beds and coastal vegetation (e.g. mangroves) dampen wave energy and reduce the effects of storm surge and storm activity, which cause coastal erosion and flooding. Beaches provide an area during storms where waves can run up and deposit sand, with natural beach ridges holding reserves of sand to replenish beaches after major erosion events. Protection of these natural resources will be important for our ongoing survival.
Greenhouse gases are causing global climate change. Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a significant increase in the amount of greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Most result from burning fossil fuels to sustain our way of life. The National Energy Policy (2017-2037) aims to reduce our 2014 per capita emissions of 12.3tCO2e to 4.8tCO2e by 2030. It is important to for us to take steps, regardless of how small, to do our part in reducing our carbon footprint. In Cayman, we can reduce our emissions by focusing on energy consumption and transport. Calculate your carbon footprint at https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx.
If you have mangroves on your property and want guidance on trimming and best practice techniques for looking after them please take a look at the DoE’s Mangrove Trimming Guidelines or contact [email protected] for more information: http://doe.ky/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Mangrove-Trimming-Guidelines.pdf