UNESCO established an experimental model of floating mangroves with indigenous Avicennia marina mangroves in Qatar in 2012. The mangrove trees are floating on top of the ocean’s surface, where plenty of space is available for biomass-productivity. The biomass can be used for the production of wood-chips, wood-pellets, charcoal, for carbon sequestration, and other profitable purposes. This discovery offers huge socio-ecological potentialities. The invention should be scientifically tested, especially, since floating mangroves do not require any freshwater, neither energy for irrigation, nor do they compete against limited land that is needed for food-security. The floating mangroves in Qatar are still in excellent condition of the time of writing this article, April 2021, with a survival rate of 95 %.
In a follow-up experiment, in 2018, the University of New South Wales and UNESCO tested the seaworthiness of deploying floating pontoons for growing and harvesting mangrove forests. Scale-models were built and used at the world-leading research facilities hosted by the university’s Water Research Laboratory, to test the floating platforms. The results of the scale-model tests provide insight into design considerations prior to field-based pilot projects.
In April 2021, UNESCO, the private sector company and large-scale biofuel producer ‘bangchak’, and the Asian Institute of Technology have met and reinvigorated the discussion. The seminar was centered about the potentiality to offset illegal tree-logging from natural mangrove forests for charcoal production, via developing a socio-ecological innovation for the legal production of biomass for biofuel.
UNESCO, AIT & bangchak have agreed to follow-up and test different mangrove species on floating devices in Thailand (this is a blog-article series tbc).
Dr. Benno Böer
Benno is the Programme Specialist for Natural Sciences at the UNESCO Bangkok Office.