Cover Change and Vegetation Carbon Stocks of Mangrove Forests in Lamu County, Kenya
Mbatha, Anthony Mutua
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Mangroves around the world are being threatened by a combination of natural and human factors. Losses of mangroves leads to reduced forest cover and enhanced carbon emission. This study assessed cover change, forest structure, natural regeneration, and carbon stocks of mangroves in Lamu County, Kenya. Landsat images were used to assess cover change from 1990 to 2019, and structural data were obtained in the field using the plot method. Using stratified random design, mangroves were sampled in 152 square plots of 400 m2 along belt transects established perpendicular to the waterline. Within each plot, all trees with stem diameters ≥ 2.5 cm were identified, counted and position marked, while those < 2.5 cm were counted and classified as juveniles. The following parameters were recorded: tree height (m), stem diameter (cm), and canopy cover (%); from which stem density (stems ha-1), basal area (m2 ha-1), volume (m3 ha-1), and biomass (t ha-1) were enumerated. Six mangrove species were encountered during this study. Based on importance value index, the dominant mangrove species in Lamu were Rhizophora mucronata (Lam.) and Ceriops tagal (perr.) C.B. Rob., that accounted for more than 70% of the mangrove formations. Mean standing density of the mangroves was estimated at 2,339±241 stems ha-1 (range:1,607-3,092 stems ha-1), with a basal area of 24.26±3.18 m2 ha-1, and volume of 157.97±15.22 m3 ha-1. At least 42% of the forest was stocked with low-quality poles, indicating prolonged human pressure. However, natural regeneration rate of 7,342±450 juveniles ha-1 observed in the forest was considered adequate to support forest recovery following disturbance. The mean biomass was estimated at 354.98±49.81 Mg ha-1. This translates to vegetation carbon storage of 166.56±23.41 Mg C ha-1. Mangroves in Lamu were estimated at 35,678 ha, representing 62% of the country’s total. Approximately, 1,739 ha of mangroves were lost between 1990 and 2019, mainly due to anthropogenic activities, representing a decline of 60 ha yr-1. Total emission from loss and degradation of mangrove vegetation in Lamu was estimated at 41.64 Mg C ha-1; which translates to 9,169.13 Mg CO2e yr-1. Assuming an offset price of US$10/Mg CO2e, the estimated cost of avoided emissions in Lamu County is US$91,691.3 yr-1 plus other co-benefits such as fishery support and shoreline protection. Mainstreaming mangroves and associated blue carbon ecosystems into national development and climate change agendas could accelerate Kenya’s achievements to the Paris Agreement and other processes.