Accruing Blue Carbon in Sulawesi and a Sinking Javanese Coastline


Accruing Blue Carbon in Sulawesi and a Sinking Javanese Coastline

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Part One:  Blue Carbon

I was graciously invited by CIFOR and Conservation International to attend the Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group annual meeting, as part of the Blue Carbon Initiative.  This event took place in Tongkaina, Bunaken National Marine Park, North Sulawesi at the end of September.

Part One-A:  Science-Policy Dialogue on Indonesian Blue Carbon Sept 26, 2016.


  • Initiate conversations across coastal blue carbon stakeholders in Indonesia
  • Facilitate scientific and policy communities to explore gaps of which they can further help each other in sustaining coastal blue carbon
  • Outline a path forward for addressing the needs of Blue Carbon in Indonesia.

Key Questions during dialogue


  • What are the policy gaps to enhance Indonesian Blue Carbon ecosystems for climate change adaptation and mitigation?
  • How can the dialogue among stakeholders be intensified to meet common agenda?


  • To what extent do we know the breadth and wealth of coastal blue carbon, their opportunities and challenges
  • What would be the best way to exchange knowledge, ideas and coordination of future research agenda 

Part One-B:  International Blue Carbon Initiative Scientific Working Group (BCSWG) - Workshop

27-29, 2016, Manado, Indonesia

Group Photo

This year marked the 5th gathering of the BCSWG.  Indonesia is at the forefront of this meeting, representing the world’s largest blue carbon nation, with significant potential for project implementation, including conservation of blue carbon habitats, rehabilitation and sustainable use.  Conservation International’s BC initiative in Kaimana, Papua was highlighted, along with the role of seagrasses, which have played second fiddle to mangroves in the blue carbon world.


1)      Building Awareness

2)      Exchanging Knowledge

3)      Accelerating Practical Action

The role of supporting policy and implementation with robust science is always at the forefront of this group, who are making significant tools, methods and data available to practitioners and decision makers. 

Key Presentations Day One:

Steve Crooks reiterated Blue Carbon Considerations for Indonesia

  • Major source of emissions (by category) understood thanks to Richards and Friess
  • Mangroves and coastal lands mappable
  • Extent and rate of sea grass loss currently unknown
  • Tier 1-2 reference stocks for mangrove exist
  • Time Series of wetlands loss needed (Preferable to 1990)
  • Emissions from aquaculture operations calculable
  • Managed lands
  • Integrations with other land use databases

Day Two of the workshop involved a field-trip to Tiwoho Village, Bunaken National Marine Park, about a 10 minute car ride from the venue.  During this trip, myself and PhD Rignolda Djamaluddin of the University of Sam Ratulangi led a field trip as primary practitioners of what is Indonesia’s first Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation site.

The site was cleared in 1991 for shrimp pond development.  Shrimp aquaculture was attempted in a portion of the site for only one cropping cycle – after which it was abandoned.  Hydrological rehabilitation was implemented between 2003-2005 and consisted of strategic breaching of dike walls, creation of tidal channel connections, and temporary blocking of artificial drainage channels (to increase sedimentation in the site and fresh-water flushing of hypersaline soils).  Approximately 10% of the site was planted while 90% was allowed to grow back via natural regeneration.  Stem density at time-zero + 10 years ranged between 9467 – 61,900 stems/ha, from 21 species of true mangroves.  Click here to view an illustrated field guide to the rehabilitation site.

The group was introduced to the site with a birds eye view of the 10 year old canopy, with the larger mother forest in the background


Dan Friess - of National Univ of Singapore approves of the natural development of tidal drainage within the site

Pat Megonigal of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center discusses sediment/carbon accrual on site

Clint Cameron of  CDU-RIEL has estimated above and below ground carbon stocks for the site – and is currently in the field measuring greenhouse gas emissions as an integral part of his PhD research.

Day three:  The workshop was personally very useful from a networking aspect, with the following outcomes.

1. Formation of sub-working group to assess opportunities for mangrove forest landscape rehabilitation (MFLR) in Indonesia.  Current group members who attended the meeting include;

  • Frida Sidik, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (currently seconded to Ministry of Environment and Forestry)
  • Barakalla (Blue Carbon Coordinator, Conservation International)
  • Anisa Budiayu (Coastal & Ocean Program Manager - TNC - Indonesia)
  • Yoyok (Wetlands International – Indonesia Programme)
  • Ben Brown (Blue Forests/CDU)

Additional group members;

  • Satrio Wicaksono (World Resources Institute)
  • Yusran Nurdin (Blue Forests)

Additional invited members;

  • Dr Hendra Siry - Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Head of Blue Carbon Policy Group
  • Apri Astra (Wetlands International – Indonesia Programme)
  • Pak Pramudji (LIPI) or Yaya Ulumuddin (LIPI/ANU)

The group will convene over the next two years, guided by the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Method (ROAM) applying the process to specifically investigate Mangrove Forest Landscape Rehabilitation potential in Indonesia.  The group will attempt to sit under the National Mangrove Management Coordination Team (KKMN), to formally align with the Indonesian National Mangrove Ecosystem Management Strategy (SNPEM) of 2013

2. Professor Catherine Lovelock (Univ Queensland) and PhD Richard MacKenzie (USFS) are coordinating to host series of workshops and trainings in conjunction with ASEAN Mangrove Network (AMNET) as well as the Ministries of Forestry in Myanmar and Vietnam to assess opportunities for mangrove forest landscape rehabilitation, potentially using the ROAM process as a guide.  Myself and Blue Forests have been invited to facilitate this workshop series.

3. Leah Glass (Blue Ventures) and Emily Landis (The Nature Conservancy) are currently assessing the potential for mangrove rehabilitation and conservation as a Blue Carbon demonstration project in two landscapes in East Kalimantan (Mahakam Delta and Berau).  The Mahakam Delta case would require the development of alternative sustainable industries to persuade current land-users to undertake the rehabilitation of unproductive aquaculture ponds.  The case in Berau requires research to empirically determine thresholds separating the current mangrove forest regime and less valuable regimes in response to impending aquaculture development in the bay.  Emily Landis informed me that TNC are also currently undertaking a coarse ROAM assessment of global mangrove rehabilitation opportunity, being coordinated by Dorothee Herr and Mark Spalding.

4. Remote Sensing Support

Three relevant pledges of support and collaboration from this sector. 

  • Marc Simaud of JPL/NASA offered free trend analyses for Indonesian seascapes.  He also provided contacts of researchers using drone-based LIDAR and stereophotogrammetry for the creation of Digital Elevation Maps essential to site-level hydrological mangrove rehabilitation.
  • Dr Chandra Giri of US-EPA offered 2m resolution data sets in requested landscapes.
  • Prof. Faiz Rahman of Univ of Texas – Pan American is interested in collaboration in adding socio-economic layers to a current GIS inventory of degraded mangrove forests in Papua.

Part Two: Demak, Central Java October 3-6

Training of trainers for assessment of mangrove rehabilitation opportunity assessment.  I was asked by the Building with Nature (BwN) project to develop and lead this 3-day training alongside Yusran Nurdin and Rio Ahmad of Blue Forests.  The meeting was attended by field staff from Wetlands International – Indonesia Programme, Blue Forests, local government and World Resources Institute.  The BwN project is attempting to reverse the trend of landscape subsidence and coastal erosion along 25 km of critically degraded shoreline, largely through construction of permeable dams to capture sediment and encourage mangrove recruitment.  Community members receive livelihood loans in exchange for maintenance of the dams. 

The project is interested in increasing mangrove forest cover as well in the area, and this training was undertaken to prepare facilitators for future assessments of up to 10 partner villages, to understand if there are feasible options for mangrove rehabilitation.

Day one of the training provided an overview of four major mangrove rehabilitation techniques and relevant case studies.

1)      Planting alone without hydrological rehabilitation

2)      Hydrological rehabilitation with natural regeneration and/or planting

3)      Major excavation and fill projects

4)      Experimental erosion control projects.

Participants then listed 19 mangrove rehabilitation techniques that they knew of to create a matrix which can inform us of best practice.

The rest of the first day was spent going over the 5 major steps of assessment guided by the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Method (ROAM).

1)      Develop a typology of Indonesian mangrove forest rehabilitation landscapes

2)      Determine all possible practices (planting, hydrological correction, fill/excavation project, erosion control, etc.)

3)      Create opportunity maps looking at biophysical feasibility as well as social feasibility (land tenure, policy, stakeholder interest)

4)      Develop a cost-benefit analysis

5)      Identify finance options and institutional readiness.

Day Two involved a visit to the field, to learn about ecology, hydrology and disturbances to natural mangrove regeneration.

The team dropped in at the seaward edge of a very deep mudflat, progress only possible by crawling on one’s belly.  It took 3 hours to conduct a 250 meter transect from mean-sea level inland towards an aquaculture pond, yet it was essential for the group to understand how mangrove colonization and distribution is largely dependent upon appropriate surface elevation (roughly from Mean Sea Level (MSL) up to Highest Astronomical Tide (HAT).

The team literally had to crawl atop the fluvial mudflat to measure surface elevation.  Thank goodness Hamish Campbell of CDU is dedicated to building our capacity with drone technology.

No more logos - mud, the great equalizer.  Looking back into the forest from atop a dike wall, to complete the 3 hour 250m transect

The rest of the day was spent looking at the permeable dams developed by the project, and investigating the few remaining vegetated sand bars that occur in the foreshore.  This area once was home to abundant cheniers and other natural coastal protection structures, but has experienced over 1.5 linear km of coastal abrasion in recent years.

Many of the dams are already damaged within 1 year of placement.  Wetlands International has made biorights agreements with local communities to repair the dams for a period of 4 years, but one questions whether this is enough to ensure the long term functioning of the intervention.

Day three of the workshop involved drawing the results of the previous days transect, to understand better the biophysical requirements of young mangroves.  This led to a discussion of other important biophysical, as well as social and tenurial metrics which need to be measured and analysed in order to assess the potential for mangrove rehabilitation in the area.  This discussion took place as part of step 3 of the ROAM method, in which opportunity maps for rehabilitation will be created by the research team and local stakeholders.  Opportunity mapping will be largely reliant upon locally generated data, which can later be digitized, as national and provincial data sets are not yet adequate to inform mangrove rehabilitation decision making processes.

learning about the relationship between surface elevation, mangrove establishment and early growth

Using the ROAM manual (IUCN/WRI) to guide the process, participants develop opportunity maps based using best current knowledge.  Data gaps will be filled after training during the next assessment phase in 5-10 participant villages.

Stratifying the landscape based on significant biophysical and tenurial aspects

rehabilitation options are emerging after this initial exercise, yet much data remains to be collected

Participants in the 3 day training are currently developing a follow-up plan, to undertake a full assessment of 5-10 partner villages in the BwN project, aligning with my own research into assessing mangrove forest landscape rehabilitation opportunity in Indonesia.