Published: January 11, 2012
Mangroves are among the most threatened and rapidly disappearing natural environments worldwide. In addition to supporting a wide range of other ecological and economic functions, mangroves store considerable carbon. Here, we consider the global economic potential for protecting mangroves based exclusively on their carbon. We develop unique high-resolution global estimates (5′ grid, about 9 × 9 km) of the projected carbon emissions from mangrove loss and the cost of avoiding the emissions. Using these spatial estimates, we derive global and regional supply curves (marginal cost curves) for avoided emissions. Under a broad range of assumptions, we find that the majority of potential emissions from mangroves could be avoided at less than $10 per ton of CO2. Given the recent range of market price for carbon offsets and the cost of reducing emissions from other sources, this finding suggests that protecting mangroves for their carbon is an economically viable proposition. Political-economy considerations related to the ability of doing business in developing countries, however, can severely limit the supply of offsets and increases their price per ton. We also find that although a carbon focused conservation strategy does not automatically target areas most valuable for biodiversity, implementing a biodiversity-focused strategy would only slightly increase the costs.