Urban Innovation in China | Hainan: Transforming Mangroves into “Golden Groves”

2024-05-25 11:54:59

On May 17, 21st Century Business Herald reporters were invited to Hainan for the 2024 International Biodiversity Day-themed interview event. It was learned that the Dongzhai Port National Nature Reserve Administration is collaborating with research institutions to conduct a Blue Carbon Pilot test, effectively transforming mangroves into “golden groves”.

Dongzhai Port National Nature Reserve, the first wetland nature reserve in China primarily focused on mangroves, is renowned globally for having the largest contiguous area of mangroves, the most species, the highest quality forest stands, and the richest biodiversity. This reserve plays a significant role in promoting the blue carbon economy and supporting carbon neutrality. Since 2013, Dongzhai Port has employed various methods such as legislative protection, environmental improvement, pond reclamation for forests, and ecological restoration to restore about 767 acres of mangroves.

Mr. Feng Erhui, a forestry engineer at the Research Planning and Development Department of the Dongzhai Port National Nature Reserve Administration, introduced to the reporter that, without considering the carbon sequestration of animals, water bodies, and deep soil, the total carbon sequestration of the Dongzhai Port mangrove wetlands is 395,000 tons, with a per hectare carbon sequestration rate of 250.6 tons.

Mangroves, as the “carbon sequestration pioneers”, can be converted into flowing economic benefits. This year, the National Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Trading (CCER) officially resumed. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced methodologies for four types of CCER projects, including mangrove restoration.

Mr. Feng elaborated that carbon sequestration in Dongzhai Port mangroves includes both biological and soil carbon sequestration. Among the biological carbon sequestration, plant carbon sequestration is calculated based on biomass, with the above-ground biomass of mangrove communities at 40,600 tons, below-ground biomass at 19,900 tons, and litter biomass at 17,200 tons, totaling 125,900 tons of plant carbon sequestration in the mangrove wetlands. Calculated with an average depth of 1 meter, the total soil carbon sequestration in the mangrove wetlands is 269,000 tons.

Blue carbon is a crucial component of carbon sinks, and mangroves are a significant part of blue carbon. China is one of the few countries in the world that possesses all three major blue carbon ecosystems: seagrass beds, mangroves, and salt marshes. Strengthening the protection and restoration of mangroves benefits blue carbon ecological sequestration. Dongzhai Port’s mangrove carbon sequestration includes biological and soil carbon sequestration, with approximately 125,900 tons from plants and 269,000 tons from soil, totaling around 395,000 tons. The carbon sequestration per unit area is 250.6 tons per hectare, contributing significantly to carbon sinks.

Previously, Zhang Zhifeng, Deputy Director of Marine Ecology and Environment Department of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, answered questions from a 21st Century Business Herald reporter during a regular press conference in April.  He introduced that both the “Opinions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Fully, Accurately, and Comprehensively Implementing the New Development Philosophy and Carrying Out Carbon Peak and Carbon Neutrality” and the “Action Plan for Achieving Carbon Peak Before 2030” require consolidating the carbon sink capacity of ecosystems and enhancing the increment of ecosystem carbon sink. These documents also put forward clear requirements for marine carbon sinks, including improving the carbon sequestration capabilities of mangroves, seagrass beds, and salt marshes, and enhancing the statistical monitoring capabilities of marine carbon sinks.

Zhang Zhifeng introduced that in October last year, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the State Administration for Market Regulation jointly issued the “Administrative Measures for Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Trading (Trial)”. Regarding the compilation of methodologies for voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction projects, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment openly solicited suggestions from the public and systematically conducted the evaluation and selection of methodologies. Based on principles such as high public expectation, clear emission reduction mechanisms, reliable data quality, combined social and ecological benefits, and effective supervision, the Ministry issued the first batch of four methodologies, including the mangrove restoration methodology. In January this year, the national voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction trading market was launched, marking the establishment of a nationwide carbon market system that complements and connects the mandatory carbon market and the voluntary carbon market.

Covering 1,771.08 hectares of mangroves, Dongzhai Port National Nature Reserve is rich in flora and fauna resources, with 20 families and 36 species of mangrove plants, accounting for 97% of the country’s mangrove species. Among these are precious species like Nypa fruticans, sharp-leafed Acrostichum aureum, and Sonneratia hainanensis. Hainan-specific species such as Sonneratia hainanensis and Acrostichum aureum, as well as species listed in the “China Plant Red Data Book” like Lumnitzera littorea and Nypa fruticans, boast high conservation value.

In addition to exploring the biodiversity of Dongzhai Port National Nature Reserve, the local government is actively taking measures to protect and restore the mangrove wetlands. Through legislative protection, environmental improvement, pond reclamation for forests, and ecological restoration, the total protection and control area of mangrove wetlands increased from over 8000 acres to more than 19000 acres. They have restored and planted 767 acres of mangroves and successfully restored 302 acres of mangroves, cultivating over 298,000 seedlings of various mangrove species.

Currently, Dongzhai Port National Nature Reserve has established long-term partnerships with domestic research institutes and universities, dedicated to exploring the “blue carbon sequestration” function brought by “mangrove protection”, and focusing on the carbon peak and carbon neutrality benefits of the Hainan Dongzhai Port National Nature Reserve.

Author: Li Deshangyu, reporter of 21st Century Business Herald.