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Brazil’s mangrove forests represent untapped blue carbon banks, says new study from National Geographic Explorers

New research from the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition suggests increased protection of Brazil’s mangroves can help meet the country’s emissions targets

Curuça, Pará, Brazil: View of a forest of Rhizophora mangle (aka. Red Mangrove) and Avicennia germinans (aka. Black Mangrove) in Curuça forest. Photo Credit: Pablo Albarenga/National Geographic

Washington, D.C. (March 4) — Released today in Nature Communications, a new study titled “The inclusion of Amazon mangroves in Brazil’s REDD+ program” suggests that Brazil’s mangroves hold untapped climate mitigation potential, sequestering an estimated 468.3 tonnes of carbon per hectare — a capacity roughly 3-20-fold higher than that of Brazilian upland biomes. The study, authored in part by National Geographic Explorers Angelo Bernardino and Margaret Awuor Owuor, proposes that it is essential that Brazil’s mangroves be included in the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as part of the Paris Agreement and could be further utilized in the voluntary carbon credit system to finance forest conservation through the REDD+ initiative.

Santa Cruz, Espírito Santo, Brazil. National Geographic Explorer Angelo Bernardino (right) and student Carla Frechiani de Oliveira. Photo Credit: Ana Caroline de Lima/National Geographic

Protecting these blue carbon reservoirs would not only be key to helping Brazil reach its 100 percent emissions reduction goal, but could also provide added economic benefit as actions to halt mangrove loss in the Amazon could potentially generate nearly 11.5 ± 0.11 million tonnes in carbon credits over a 10-yr period (2020-2030) under REDD+, suggesting they are of great value to mitigate emissions from the forestry sector and finance biodiversity conservation.

Brazil contains the second largest repository of mangrove forests in the world, yet the country’s National REDD+ strategy currently does not include the mitigation of mangrove deforestation in the context of result-based payments for reducing emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). To better understand their potential impact and advocate for these critical coastal ecosystems, Bernardino, Awuor Owuor and a team of local researchers analyzed 900 soil samples and tree measurements from over 190 forest plots to determine mangrove forest emission levels across pristine and deforested areas near the Amazon River mouth including Sucuriju, Araguari and Bailique, and to the east including Curuçá, Maracanã and Bragança.

“The Brazilian government’s current emissions reduction goals don’t stress the climate benefits from mangroves in the Amazon,” says Bernardino, lead author of the study. “Our findings suggest that by mitigating the loss of just one hectare of mangrove forest, we are protecting the equivalent of more than 100 hectares of secondary upland forests in terms of avoided carbon emissions. Halting mangrove deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon biome would avoid emissions equivalent to that from over 200,000 gasoline-powered cars every year. We have a unique opportunity to address this gap to enhance Brazil’s conservation efforts in the Amazon biome.”

This research is part of the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition and builds upon Bernardino’s previous study which identified a unique wetland forest that exists in the Amazon River delta where extensive mangroves occur in essentially freshwater tidal environments.

“Trailblazing research in life-sustaining ecosystems is a cornerstone of the Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition,” says Nicole Alexiev, Vice President of Science and Innovation Programs at National Geographic Society. “The groundbreaking findings in this study showcase the critical role mangroves play as a nature-based solution to mitigate climate change and the importance of ensuring their protection.”

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The National Geographic Perpetual Planet Expeditions program, a long-standing collaboration with Rolex and its Perpetual Planet Initiative, supports expeditions to explore the planet’s most critical environments. By harnessing world-renowned scientific expertise and cutting-edge technology that reveal new insights about the systems that are vital to life on Earth, these expeditions help scientists, decision-makers, and local communities plan for and find solutions to the impacts of climate and environmental change while illuminating the wonder of our world through impactful storytelling.


For nearly a century, Rolex has supported pioneering explorers pushing back the boundaries of human endeavour. The company has moved from championing exploration for the sake of discovery to protecting the planet, committing for the long term to support individuals and organizations using science to understand and devise solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

This engagement was reinforced with the launch of the Perpetual Planet initiative in 2019, which initially focused on individuals who contribute to a better world through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, on safeguarding the oceans as part of an established association with Mission Blue and on understanding climate change via its long-standing partnership with the National Geographic Society.

The initiative’s portfolio continues to expand with more than 20 partners including:

Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen in their work as conservation photographers; Coral Gardeners, transplanting resilient corals to reefs; the Under The Pole expeditions, pushing the boundaries of underwater exploration; the B.I.G North expedition to the Canadian Arctic in 2024, gathering data on threats to the Arctic.

Rolex also supports organizations and initiatives fostering the next generations of explorers, scientists and conservationists through scholarships and grants, such as Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society and The Rolex Explorers Club Grants.

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About The National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content.

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