This year’s World Environment Day theme is ‘Celebrate Biodiversity’. You might have noticed that we’ve got cool pictures of tigers on our website. That’s because our current mangrove restoration project in India provides habitat protection for the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger. With one million animal and plant species on the brink of extinction the need to restore and sustain biodiversity has never been greater.
Our world is globally interconnected with trickle-down effects causing far-reaching and unforeseen consequences. The current pandemic has proven just how fragile we are as a species when one thing falls out of balance.
The foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. In these exceptional times nature is sending us a message – to care for ourselves we must care for nature. Our mission at Earthbanc is to empower people to transform our economic system from extractive to regenerative, so that each of us can be part of the solutions and the global call #ForNature.
At Earthbanc we develop innovative financial solutions to create a regenerative economy that restores livelihoods through financial inclusion, restores the planet’s critical ecosystems, and provides a solid return on investment. To celebrate this year’s World Environment Day theme of Biodiversity, we want to share a little about the unique power of mangroves and why we’ve chosen to restore mangrove ecosystems in India.
Mangroves sequester carbon at 5-fold the rate of terrestrial trees, they provide habitat to support rich biodiversity, including the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger, they pump oxygen into our atmosphere, and they protect coastlines and coastal communities from storm surges and other extreme weather events. Not surprisingly, mangrove restoration is an excellent regenerative investment with far-reaching environmental and social benefits, as well as contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Give it up for mangrove power!
Mangroves are climate action superheroes
Referred to as ‘the green lungs of our planet’, mangroves capture up to 5 times more CO2 than any other rainforests on earth. Oceans store the largest amount of carbon in the world, and the shorelines via mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs, make up a significant proportion of that important storage function. After mangroves are restored, the surrounding seagrasses recover, and these two climate action superheroes combine forces to sequester what is known as ‘blue carbon’ (carbon stored in the oceans and coastal ecosystems). These critical ecosystems provide fish and crustacean spawning grounds that facilitate the transport of nitrogen run-off into fish nitrogen protein, which is then transported into deep oceans via fish migration, contributing to a massive carbon sink into the depths of the oceans. The carbon and fish migration life cycle is complete when mangroves and seagrasses are thriving.
Did you know that 20-50 billion mangroves, when taking seagrass recovery into account, is equivalent to 1 trillion terrestrial trees in terms of carbon drawdown. That means a global effort to halt climate change would require up to 50-fold less trees than the proposed 1 trillion tree target from the ETH Zurich study. Restoring 20-50 billion mangroves could provide us with about 15 years extra time to draw down our emissions and reduce our ecological footprint in order to mitigate climate change. It’s a lot of mangroves, for sure, yet Earthbanc’s team demonstrated drone tree planting could achieve 100,000 trees per day in Myanmar. It’s a message of great hope to know that we could buy ourselves that kind of time to address our most pressing climate-related issues. Ultimately hand-based tree planting is more accurate for survival rates now, but drone technology will improve over time.
And what about the tigers?
Mangrove ecosystems are vital for the survival of many species on our planet, like the Royal Bengal Tiger, that have adapted to survive in the saltwater swamps of the Sundarbans. Tigers serve as apex predators within their ecosystem, feeding on fish living amongst the mangrove roots, hunting underwater – a highly unusual adaptation for big cats. This keystone species requires large, interconnected territories for prey abundance. Bengal Tigers are an endangered species, with only between 2000-3000 individual animals today. Without sufficient mangrove habitat, tigers are pushed closer to extinction, and without tigers, entire ecosystems would collapse.
Watch this video from the BBC’s Big Cat series to get a sense of both the rarity and majesty of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Earthbanc is proud to support the communities who are working to restore and protect these tiger habitats in the Sundarbans for generations to come.
Mangroves protect coastlines and vulnerable coastal communities
The Sundarbans are the largest mangrove forests on Earth and are shared between India and Bangladesh. They play a vital role in shielding coastal communities from storms and floods intensified by climate change, like the super cyclone Amphan that struck both countries in May 2020. The 4,000 hectares of restored grown mangroves acted as a storm bio-shield, helping to absorb some of the impacts of the up to 265 kilometres per hour winds, and preserving the banks from flooding and desalination. They remain intact after the devastating tropical storm, with no uprooted trees.
Mangrove Capital as regenerative investment
Mangroves are under threat globally due to land conversion, overexploitation, and other human-induced stressors. Various stakeholders, including governments and NGOs, have been working on the conservation and restoration of mangrove ecosystems for years with mixed results. Lack of sustainable finance is often cited as a reason for long-term project failure. Hence the opportunity arises for mangrove capital to lead the way in regenerative finance.
Mangroves provide valuable ecosystem services estimated to be worth thousands to tens of thousands of USD per hectare, and play an important role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Through regenerative investment mangroves can deliver a number of environmental and social benefits. This is of great interest to both governments wanting to reduce coastal damage and increase economic livelihoods, and impact investors wanting to ‘do good’ while earning economic returns based on valuation of natural capital.
In 2019 Earthbanc was involved with the issuance of a digital green bond for mangrove restoration that had the following impressive impact and investment metrics – for every $100 invested, it sequestered 2 tonnes of carbon over the life of the project and delivered $200 of ecosystem services from infrastructure protection from hurrican driven storm surges, flowers for bee keeping, spawning grounds for local fisheries and much more.
Mangroves contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
In September 2015, 193 countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a roadmap to alleviate global poverty, advance social and economic development and importantly, further the integrated management of natural systems. The importance of restoring and protecting mangroves as a low carbon investment is reflected most clearly in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which focuses on sustainably governing our oceans and coasts and recognises mangroves’ immense value to local communities. But restoring mangrove forests also supports the achievement of many other SDGs, including eliminating poverty and hunger (SDG 1 and SDG 2), ensuring livelihoods and economic growth (SDG 8), taking actions against climate change impacts (SDG 13) and halting biodiversity loss (SDG 15).
As we enter the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, addressing climate change provides a significant opportunity for a green recovery. Earthbanc has been listed by the International Union of Conservation (IUCN) in the IUCN Global Congress as the key stakeholder to operationalize the ‘Mangrove Moonshot’ of 20 billion trees. Regenerating degraded ecosystems creates green jobs with respectable wages, safeguards biodiversity, and provides food security and water supply.
Earthbanc has joined forces with local Microfinance Organizations (MFIs) to restore 10 million mangroves trees in India. Through this partnership 750,000 trees have been restored to date by our 23,000 active users on Earthbanc India, and with your support we will scale up to tens of millions of trees in the future, and 20 billion trees globally.
Help us launch so you can support mangrove regeneration directly by clicking here.