Air Liquide Foundation: Support for research on the CO2 budget of the mangrove in New Caledonia

December 15, 2011

Along its coastlines, New Caledonia boasts nearly 35,000 hectares of mangrove swamps. A mangrove swamp is a coastal forest made up of mangrove trees that grow in coastal sediment habitats of the intertropical belt. This ecosystem, rich in biodiversity, is currently endangered: indeed, it is estimated that 1 to 2% of the world’s mangroves disappears each year.

The role of the mangrove in the carbon cycle is fundamental because of its remarkable ability to transform the CO2 present in the earth’s atmosphere into organic matter. There are still gaps in our knowledge of this cycle, and the carbon budget of the entire mangal ecosystem (soil, plant life and water) is not precisely known. Currently, the ecosystem taken as a whole is a CO2 sink, although some of its compartments (soil and water) can function as a source of CO2. Accordingly, it is necessary to quantify the CO2 fluxes within mangroves in order to refine our understanding of this cycle.

The Air Liquide Foundation has decided to offer a total of €120,000 over a two-year period to support the work being carried out by the IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), a European research development organization based in Marseille (France). The goal of the work being done is to gain a better assessment of the CO2 budget within the mangrove of La Foa, a village in New Caledonia.

The research will focus on measuring carbon concentrations at several points within this mangrove. Measurement will entail analyzing the CO2 fluxes from various compartments of the mangrove, including the water column, the soil and the canopy (the overhang of the mangrove).

The readings will then be used to acquire a global vision of the CO2 fluxes of the mangrove ecosystem, and will be integrated at the level of the observatories set up to track the evolution of mangroves in light of global climate changes.

The funding for this work falls within the framework of the three areas of focus chosen for the philanthropic initiatives of the Air Liquide Foundation: scientific research for the preservation of the environment.