Take a look into First Climate’s early-stage mangroves project in the Niger Delta and how it helps preserve biodiversity
Biodiversity is the beautiful, complex, interconnected web of genetics, species, and ecosystems that is vital to life on earth. As humans, we rely on it for more than most of us realize. It is crucial to our planet’s livability and the United Nations has hailed it as one of our most important natural defenses against climate change.
Biodiversity loss would be—and already is—devastating. According to a 2019 global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services by the IPBES, over 1 million species are on the edge of extinction. That web, essential to life, is shrinking before our very eyes. Among the various consequences such as crop failure, and increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change, studies have also found that biodiversity loss fuels the occurrence of new zoonotic diseases and increases our risk for pandemics.
There are solutions, such as projects that focus on the restoration and conservation of important ecosystems. But these are often up against a lot of hurdles. Namely, financing such projects is no easy task due to their long lifetime (up to 100 years), the amount of land and labor required, and banks’ reluctance to recognize the value of such projects.
This is where carbon finance through the voluntary carbon market comes into play. Companies can buy carbon credits, making it possible for these projects to get off the ground and receive long-term funding, which would otherwise be unattainable or far more limited. And while these projects are certified, measured, and financed by the amount of carbon they reduce, avoid, or remove, it is often overlooked that they have valuable benefits that reach far beyond their direct climate impact.
Mangroves as Protectors of Biodiversity
Mangrove ecosystems are biodiversity hotspots. Worldwide, they are habitat to 341 threatened species and over 4,000 species can be found in just India’s mangrove forests.
Underwater, their extensive networks of latticed roots serve as protective nursery areas for many fish and shellfish species, while protecting the soil from erosion and people and infrastructure from floods. Aboveground, their branches make for ideal nesting places for birds, such as herons and milky white storks. Indirectly, they support nearby ecosystems’ biodiversity, for example, their roots hold back sands and sediments to protect coral reefs.
Over the past 3 decades, however, mangrove deforestation has led to a loss of 67% of mangrove cover worldwide, resulting in a major loss of biodiversity. While this deforestation trend has begun to slow globally, this has not been the case for mangroves in the Niger Delta. To make matters worse, because of their high carbon storage capacity, when converted to other use, such as aquaculture, these trees release carbon at alarming rates. Deforestation of mangrove forests releases massives amounts of global greenhouse gas emissions. Across the globe, 10 billion tons of carbon are stored in mangrove forests, making it all the more critical to develop projects that restore and conserve these ecosystems to mitigate climate change.
The Niger Delta Project: Planting 1,000,000 Mangroves per year
Nigeria boasts the world’s third largest mangrove forest, and the largest in Africa. It is essential to protect and restore these forests for the country’s biodiversity. Mangroves are second only to peatlands at sequestering carbon. First Climate’s Niger Delta Mangrove Restoration project aims to plant mangroves on over 1,900 hectares and is expected to store approximately 80,000 tons of carbon each year. This is because mangroves have a larger yield of biomass and store most of their absorbed carbon in their leaves. When these fall to the ground they are covered by water and, under the right anaerobic conditions, can contribute to the formation of organic matters in the soil. This means that instead of releasing the carbon into the atmosphere, the carbon is sequestered in the soil, below and above ground biomass for many years.
Mangrove forests’ ability to mitigate climate change with their high carbon storage capacity is rivalled only by their ability to help coastal areas adapt to climate change. Mangroves can act as an impressive buffer to rising waters. Losing mangrove forests has meant less fish catch for local fisheries, sand erosion, flooding, and even entire islands sinking into the seas. There has already been a confirmed decline in Catch per Unit Effort in coastal areas of Nigeria. Restoring this ecosystem is critical to adapt to extreme weather and rising sea levels.
For projects like this, biodiversity is taken carefully into consideration. For the Niger Delta project, First Climate experts researched and tested the right balance between various native species, depending on location, and salinity level, and planted different mangroves species to promote species biodiversity in the newly restored forest and ensure the forest’s resilience to pests, varying weather conditions, and other threats. 70% of mangroves planted will be red mangroves, 10% white mangroves, 10% black mangroves, and a 10% mix of other native mangrove species.
Engaging with local communities is also a key component to the long-term success of biodiversity preservation. Mangrove forests were torn down for a reason—often to receive the economic benefits of aquaculture, to use the wood for fuel for cooking, or simply due to a lack
of awareness of the forest’s importance. The Niger Delta Project, like many climate
projects, involves local communities directly in the planting, monitoring, and maintenance of the forests, and raises awareness on the importance of mangroves.
This project alone has created 60 local jobs. It also promotes economic benefits through training programs for livelihood alternatives such as bee farming, grass-cutter farming, or snail farming. Such activities are crucial as they create the incentive for people to protect the mangroves in the long term, ensuring the permanence of the restoration.
The Importance of Biodiversity in All Ecosystems
Biodiversity is one of our greatest hopes in taking on the climate crisis, and we cannot take it for granted. If sea levels rise too quickly, then it may be too late to restore many of the world’s
mangrove forests, as they need the time to mature to become an effective shield against flooding. Time is running out for ecosystems across the planet.
For the next generations—of mangroves, of birds, of humans, of the millions of species we don’t even have names for yet—we must work together to preserve this precious biodiversity. Projects like this in the Niger Delta are crucial to protecting biodiversity.
Investing in an early-stage project, such as the Niger Delta Mangroves Project can be an incredible opportunity for your company to support biodiversity and demonstrate its commitment to the climate. First Climate has a wide portfolio of projects in early-stages, and is continuously developing more climate projects according to a company’s needs or wants.
Contact our project development team to learn more about the options and opportunities of developing projects with an impact!