Dr. James Kairo with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and Dr. Mwita Mangora with the Western Indian Ocean Mangrove Network hosted the 8th Meeting of the Blue Carbon Initiative’s Scientific Working Group, in Zanzibar, Tanzania on September 23rd – 25th, 2015. This three-day meeting brought together expert working group members, the African coastal carbon research community, and decision makers to assess the current state of the knowledge surrounding blue carbon ecosystems and to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for collaborations that will accelerate research in the future. Specific focus was placed not only on gaining a better understanding of blue carbon ecosystems throughout eastern and western Africa but also on the role blue carbon may play in coastal restoration decisions.
This was the first time that the Blue Carbon Initiative’s Scientific Working Group has conducted a meeting anywhere on the African continent.
The three-day meeting brought together the research community and regional leaders to assess the status of Africa’s coastal wetland systems and identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for future work. Meeting attendees took an active role in developing a regional network of blue carbon experts and identifying priority geographies, projects and research needs. The primary goals for the meeting were:
- Increase awareness of the importance of coastal wetlands for critical ecosystems services specifically including carbon sequestration and storage and the potential for increased emissions when these systems are degraded
- Assess the coastal carbon distribution in Africa, including compiling existing data and analyses
- Identify priority regions for science, management and pilot project development
- Identify opportunities and challenges in the region
- Explore ways to increase capacity through development of blue carbon networks and identifying possible regional Blue Carbon focal points
- Over 43 African and other regional experts in mangrove, saltmarsh, and seagrass ecology and geochemistry came together to share their data and collaborate on future work.
- Separate breakout groups (one for Eastern Africa and one for Western Africa) spent an afternoon exchanging information and discussing next steps for science and policy in their respective regions. Information from both groups will be combined to develop a review of blue carbon science and projects throughout Africa as well as outline future research priorities.
- A session was conducted on developing carbon projects including goal setting, strategy development, stakeholder engagement and science needs. Case studies from Kenya and Costa Rica demonstrated carbon projects that are in the process of acquiring carbon credits and entering the carbon market. This session was developed to specifically address the needs and interests of local and regional attendees.
- The Blue Carbon Initiative’s Scientific Working Group members held a session to assess the carbon benefits associated with restoration activities. A paper will be submitted to a peer review journal assessing the efficacy of including carbon sequestration and avoided emissions into restoration project design and decisions.