Earthwatch announces the winner of the 2005 Aviva/Earthwatch Award for Climate Change Research.
According to Ted Scambos, a Colorado University scientist, Arctic sea ice has melted to a record low this month, prompting fears that the entire polar ice cap may disappear within decades. His explanation for the dramatic loss of sea ice is climate change. Mangroves are amongst the most threatened of all tropical ecosystems. Their importance as nurseries for fish, crabs and prawns, as a source of fuel wood, timber and medicines for local communities and as a coastal protection system are all well known. However, one of the many ecosystem services that mangroves perform is to act as carbon sinks, however there has been very little research on their potential in this regard.
This is why Earthwatch-supported scientist Dr. Mark Huxham, School of Life Sciences, Napier University, has been awarded funding by the Aviva/Earthwatch Award for Climate Change Research, which recognises the importance of climate change related study and provides Earthwatch scientists with additional resources to aid their work.
Dr Huxham has been leading the scientific field research project Mangroves of Kenya in collaboration with Kenya Marine and Research Fisheries Institute, the government body responsible for mangrove management in Kenya, volunteers and Wales, Bangor and Edinburgh Universities since 2002, with Earthwatch volunteers in the field since last year. The project involves replanting areas of coast that have been logged with mangrove trees grown in local nurseries. Dr. Huxham is conducting a replicated and controlled experiment looking at the best combination of tree species to plant to maximise ecosystem recovery.
The £6,000 grant from the Aviva/Earthwatch Award for Climate Change Research will allow Dr Huxham and his team to establish carbon budgets for natural stands of trees of a range of different species; as well as develop and pilot new techniques to measure carbon fluxes in low tidal woods, which are inundated daily by the sea. If successful, it will allow the calculation of carbon budgets for whole mangrove woods rather than only the high tidal areas.
Dr. Mark Huxham says, "I am delighted to win this year's Aviva Award. Mangroves can play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change. With extra resources I hope that we can learn more about whether mangroves might help in the fight to slow climate change as well. Earthwatch's support has been vital to our project; the opportunity to work with dedicated volunteers has allowed us to complete so much more than we expected."
Dr Roger Mitchell, Chief Scientist at Earthwatch (Europe) says, "This excellent project on the restoration of mangrove forests in Kenya will deliver practical solutions in the battle against climate change; re-established forests will provide coastal protection; and these new forests will act as carbon sinks mitigating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully this means of combating climate change will be taken up in other countries where the global reduction in mangroves is higher that any other tropical ecosystem including rainforests. Earthwatch is very pleased to be contributing to the science of climate change through this project and several others around the world."
Anthony Sampson, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Aviva says, "We live in a century of the most profound climate change. It is a world of warming seas, retreating ice and disappearing cloud forest. The implications we already know about are disturbing and it is important to discover as much as we can about what other changes might arise.The natural world is giving off distress signals and it is the job of responsible science to translate those signals into language we can all understand so that we are informed and motivated to take the appropriate action. Earthwatch science is a source of meticulous detailed research, which helps supply the information we all need. Aviva is proud to have the opportunity of encouraging such important work."
Earthwatch has 18 field research projects dedicated to understanding the potential effects of climate change. Enthusiastic volunteers are always required to work alongside scientists in the field. For more information please call + 44 (0) 1865 318831 or visit www.earthwatch.org/europe