Establishing a “Blue Carbon and Mangroves” Research Group in Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus (UPMKB), Sarawak

Waseem Razzaq Khan, Faridah Hanum Ibrahim, Zamri Bin Rosli, Roland Kueh Jui Heng, Geoffery James Gerusu,Ahmad Mustapha Bin Mohamad Pazi, Martin Zimmer, Mohammed Othman Aljahdali, Abdullahi Bala Alhassan

The carbon stored by marine and coastal ecosystems is called blue carbon. The three key ecosystems, mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows, come directly under the umbrella of blue carbon. These ecosystems cover approximately 49 million hectares worldwide and store more carbon than terrestrial forests; accordingly, these ecosystems are considered important in mitigating climate change. These ecosystems are deemed beneficial for coastal communities in terms of coastal protection and food security. By contemplating the importance of these ecosystems, it is necessary to protect these ecosystems from external hazards; otherwise, the capacity to store carbon is lost, and as a result, the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) happens and contribute to climate change.

In the last decade, the term “blue carbon” has gained importance in the view of the nature-based climate solution. So here it is vital to know why it is important. Around 83% global carbon cycle is circulated through the ocean, and less than 2% of coastal habitat in the world covers 50% of the total carbon in the ocean sediments. When these ecosystems are destroyed, they emit the carbon stored in them for centuries, becoming a source of greenhouse gases. Experts and scientists claim 1.02 billion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted annually into the atmosphere.

In Asia Pacific Region, Malaysia has great potential for blue carbon. Due to the lack of salt marshes and seagrass meadows data, Malaysia considers the mangrove ecosystem a large carbon sink. Mangroves in Malaysia cover 577,558 hectares of area (ha) which has the potential to sequestrate approximately 593 million tonnes of CO2. It still requires verified data for these ecosystems to determine the accurate figure for the sequestrated CO2. Malaysian national organizations and task forces that deal with blue carbon are working on it to gather the blue carbon data and make policies to measure and monitor these ecosystems. Forest management practices vary from state to state in Malaysia. Sabah, Sarawak, and Johar have management authorities monitoring management activities in the respective states. Due to these autonomous authorities, policies regarding sustainable management and monitoring forest are difficult to handle and follow on the National level. Sometimes, fingers crossed, it is complicated to observe national or state policies that cause hindrances to making effective policies in this type of political scenario.

Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus (UPMKB) Sarawak is situated in the Borneo region. Sarawak is the second largest state in terms of mangrove coverage in Malaysia. Most of the mangrove area of Sarawak is a permanent reserve forest. And it is also found that most mangrove areas still need to be documented or approached to visit or to do research. So, there is a need to investigate these ecosystems in this region to quantify or estimate the carbon content. By looking at this research gap, an idea comes out by Dr.Waseem Razzaq Khan (Group Leader), who is working as Senior Lecturer at UPMKB to form a “Blue carbon and Mangroves” research group to do further research on Blue carbon. The Faculty of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences UPMKB further officially formalise it. This research group comprises local experts, Prof. Faridah Hanum Ibrahim, Dr. Zamri Bin RosliAssoct. Prof. Roland Kueh Jui Heng, Assoct. Prof. Geoffery James Gerusu and Dr. Ahmad Mustapha Bin Mohamad Pazi, and International experts, Prof. Martin Zimmer (ZMT, Bremen University, Germany), Prof Mohammed Othman Aljahdali (King Abdulaziz University) and Dr. Abdullahi Bala Alhassan (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria)

The following General Objectives are kept in mind to achieve:

  1. To assess the carbon storage potential in Malaysian mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses 
  2. To help in developing strategic policies for blue carbon to assist Government and private organisations in the blue carbon business

Future Goals

  • Intake of national and international students for researching blue carbon and mangroves
  • Group involvement in government or private agencies’ blue carbon projects 
  • Uplifting the Forestry Science Department UPMKB in the international community as a blue carbon and mangrove research center
  • Attracting donors, i.e., Petronas, Aramco, etc., for carbon offsetting activities
  • To collaborate with UNESCO to establish a UNESCO chair in blue carbon and Mangroves
  • To collaborate with springer to publish a book series on blue carbon
  • To issue/ start a journal on blue carbon and mangroves research and policies

Group Vision

We envision a conserved and stable blue carbon and mangrove ecosystem with no influence of anthropogenic activities to give way to biodiversity that sustains humanity.

In conclusion, the proposed “Blue Carbon and Mangroves” group in the Department of Forestry Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Bintulu Sarawak Campus, has the potential to significantly contribute to the understanding of Blue Carbon and Mangroves research in Malaysia. The research focus of the group, which includes the carbon sequestration potential of mangroves, the ecological and socio-economic benefits of mangroves in coastal communities, and the impacts of climate change on mangrove ecosystems, addresses important research gaps in the field and will provide valuable insights for conservation and management of mangrove ecosystem in Malaysia.

The proposed research team, which includes experts in various fields such as forestry science, biology, ecology, and socioeconomics, is well-suited to conduct this research and will be able to provide a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to the research.

Benefits and Outcomes

The establishment of a Blue Carbon and Mangroves Research Group in Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus (UPMKB), Sarawak has numerous benefits and outcomes, both scientific and economic.

a) Scientific and Environmental Benefits

The research group will contribute to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of Blue Carbon and Mangroves. By conducting research and studies, the group will provide insights on improving management and conservation strategies for Blue Carbon and Mangroves ecosystems. Additionally, the group will have the potential to identify the Blue Carbon sequestration and carbon storage potential of mangroves, which is crucial for mitigating the impacts of climate change.

b) Economic Benefits for Sarawak and Malaysia

The research group has the potential to bring financial benefits for Sarawak and Malaysia through the creation of Blue Carbon credits and other financial opportunities. The group will also help in boosting sustainable tourism and eco-tourism in Sarawak by highlighting the significance of Blue Carbon and Mangroves. Additionally, the group will support sustainable livelihoods and improve the quality of life for local communities.

c) Broader Impact

The Blue Carbon and Mangroves Research Group in UPMKB, Sarawak will make a significant contribution to global efforts in addressing climate change. The research outcomes will promote sustainable development and environmental conservation, and provide valuable information for policy-makers and stakeholders.

Waseem Razzaq Khan

Department of Forestry Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia Kampus, Bintulu 97008, Malaysia

I am working as Senior Lecturer in Department of Forestry Science UPMKB.

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