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Could sustainable logging save Indonesia’s mangroves? 

25 Mar 2013
BY Kate Evans

It’s possible that selective and sustainable logging of mangroves can be done while retaining much of their carbon – and save them from worse fates. Kate Evans/CIFOR

It sounds counter-intuitive.

Indonesia’s vast mangrove forests, CIFOR has recently discovered, are a valuable carbon sink. They shelter unique species, protect coastlines from stormy seas – and they are fast disappearing.

Conservationists would see them protected from the logger’s chainsaw.

But it’s possible that selective and sustainable logging of these forests can be done while retaining much of their carbon – and save them from worse fates.

“The threat to mangrove forests is not the cutting of the above ground wood, but conversion to other uses,” says Muljadi Tantra, the Deputy Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of a group of companies that harvest mangrove wood for charcoal and paper pulp in the provinces of Kalimantan and Papua.

“Once you convert it into a shrimp pond, the whole soil changes, and all the carbon is lost.”

“Whereas logging, if you do it right, and you only take a very small portion of the forest each year, the impact to the environment is very minimal, because of the ability of the mangrove to regenerate itself.”

“As long as you don’t convert them, they’ll come back.”

To test these claims scientifically, Tantra has given researchers from the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) access to his PT Kandelia Alam concession in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan province.

Daniel Murdiyarso, a senior CIFOR climate change scientist and mangrove expert, will be leading efforts to measure the amount of carbon stored and the impact on those stocks of different ways of managing the forests.

“Our current research suggests that logging removes around 20 – 25 percent