With the growing recognition that effective action on climate change will require a combination of emissions reductions and carbon sequestration, protecting, enhancing and restoring natural carbon sinks have become political priorities. Mangrove forests are considered some of the most carbon-dense ecosystems in the world with most of the carbon stored in the soil. In order for mangrove forests to be included in climate mitigation efforts, knowledge of the spatial distribution of mangrove soil carbon stocks are critical. Current global estimates do not capture enough of the finer scale variability that would be required to inform local decisions on siting protection and restoration projects. To close this knowledge gap, we have compiled a large georeferenced database of mangrove soil carbon measurements and developed a novel machine-learning based statistical model of the distribution of carbon density using spatially comprehensive data at a 30 m resolution. This model, which included a prior estimate of soil carbon from the global SoilGrids 250 m model, was able to capture 63% of the vertical and horizontal variability in soil organic carbon density (RMSE of 10.9 kg m−3). Of the local variables, total suspended sediment load and Landsat imagery were the most important variable explaining soil carbon density. Projecting this model across the global mangrove forest distribution for the year 2000 yielded an estimate of 6.4 Pg C for the top meter of soil with an 86–729 Mg C ha−1 range across all pixels. By utilizing remotely-sensed mangrove forest cover change data, loss of soil carbon due to mangrove habitat loss between 2000 and 2015 was 30–122 Tg C with >75% of this loss attributable to Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar. The resulting map products © 2018 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd Environ. Res. Lett. 13 (2018) 055002 from this work are intended to serve nations seeking to include mangrove habitats in payment-forecosystem services projects and in designing effective mangrove conservation strategies.
blue carbon, carbon sequestration, land use change, machine learning