STRI Panama


Project: Understanding how
mangroves capture carbon

Project title

Understanding How Mangroves Capture Carbon

Photo credit: Tania Romero, STRI

Mentor name

Rachel Collin (


Naos Labs, Panama City

Project summary and objectives

Mangroves are highly productive ecosystems that provide critical ecosystem services to coastal communities within the tropics and sub-tropics, including climate change adaptation and mitigation, and food security. Despite the small area they occupy along tropical coastlines, they account for 14% of carbon sequestration in the oceans, and therefore major stores of blue carbon globally. As the world moves towards commoditizing blue carbon, it becomes increasingly important to document the amount of carbon currently held in different biomes AND understand how key rates influence variation in carbon stores in different types of ecosystems and in areas with different environmental conditions. In this project, we are documenting how the current carbon stores, carbon accumulation rate, sediment accretion rates, soil carbon origin, and decomposition rates vary in contrasting mangrove forests in Panama. Mangrove soils and peats can be very deep (>20m in some places) and can range from 1-40% carbon by weight. The origin of this carbon can be either from the mangroves themselves or can be brought into the system from the ocean or from terrestrial sources via adjacent rivers. Soil accretion in mangroves can reach 5mm/year, which buffers tropical and sub-tropical coastlines from sea-level rise. However, accretion can be much less, and in some places, net erosion has been measured in mangroves.

Mentorship goals

Gain expertise documenting forest structure; Gain experience with basic blue carbon soil methods; Learn how to observe natural history and biodiversity in mangrove forests; Gain experience planning experiments and writing about scientific results.

The intern will work ~40 hours per week but some field trips might require irregular hours.

Desired Background

Some previous experience in the lab or field is preferred, but not necessary. Candidates with basic laboratory skills and training (especially bio-geo-chemistry work or knowledge of spatial analysis, GIS or Google Earth Engine would be able to start at a higher level but these skills are not necessary. Ability to work with groups of people from diverse backgrounds is necessary.

List of suggested readings

Romañach, S. S., DeAngelis, D. L., Koh, H. L., Li, Y., Teh, S. Y., Barizan, R. S. R., & Zhai, L. (2018). Conservation and restoration of mangroves: Global status, perspectives, and prognosis. Ocean & Coastal Management, 154, 72-82.

Friess, D. A., Krauss, K. W., Taillardat, P., Adame, M. F., Yando, E. S., Cameron, C., ... & Sillanpää, M. (2020). Mangrove blue carbon in the face of deforestation, climate change, and restoration. Annual Plant Reviews, 3(10.1002), 9781119312994.

López-Angarita, J., Roberts, C. M., Tilley, A., Hawkins, J. P., & Cooke, R. G. (2016). Mangroves and people: Lessons from a history of use and abuse in four Latin American countries. Forest Ecology and Management, 368, 151-162.

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