Mangrove conservation efforts not only prevent habitat loss, but also help regulate carbon dioxide emissions. According to researchers from Duke University, protected areas in Indonesia have maintained 35,594 acres of mangrove habitats and prevented the release into the atmosphere of about 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that the mangrove roots help store.  

"This is not a small number," Daniela Miteva, a postdoctoral researcher at The Nature Conservancy and a Duke University alumna, said in a news release. "Protected areas have reduced the rate of mangrove loss by about 28 percent in Indonesia, which has the world's largest area of mangroves."

The researchers analyzed the success of protected areas from 2000 to 2010. Their findings were recently published in the journal Ecological Economics.

According to the release, mangroves grow in coastal areas of the tropics and subtropics.  Carbon is stored in sediment beneath the mangroves, and is also known as "blue carbon." When water levels or low or mangroves are destroyed, this sediment oxidizes and the carbon dioxide is released.  

Preventing such a large amount of carbon from releasing into the atmosphere is, Brian Murray, co-author and director of the Environmental Economics Program at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, said in a statement, "...equivalent to taking 344,000 vehicles off the road each year."

Their study suggests that $540 million in social welfare benefits were generated by avoiding climate change damage, according to Duke Professor Subhrendu Pattanayak.

"Our study is one the few rigorous and careful attempts to see if conservation policies work," Pattanayak said. "We find that while designated protected marine areas do the job, there is no evidence that certain other, less-specific forms of species protection stalled the loss of mangroves, suggesting we need a new approach that distinguishes between types of protected areas. A one-size fits all solution is a poor policy."

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