The carbon battle in Gabon's mighty mangroves

Gabon is fighting to protect its mangroves.

The Central African country is home to the world’s tallest mangroves - some of them reaching over 210 feet high.

The towering trees have made Gabon one of the world’s few net absorbers of carbon as the plants sequester the greenhouse gas four times faster than forests on land.

Vincent Medjibe works for Gabon’s National Parks Agency.

As the world struggles to curb climate change, he has been tasked with collecting data to try and work out exactly how much carbon is locked in the mangroves.

He says protecting the trees is vital.

"The mangrove ecosystem, we really have to be careful about them, not to destroy them because if we destroy the mangrove ecosystem then we will emit a lot of carbon from the atmosphere."

As well as storing carbon, the swamps are rich in wildlife and serve as natural flood defenses.

However many are under threat from urbanization, with former swamps being illegally cleared for construction.

Andrea Minkwe is the manager of the Arboretum Raponda Walker, which is located just outside the Gabonese capital Libreville.

She oversees a team of rangers who monitor the reserve’s mangroves and discourage people from destroying the plants to build houses or tourism businesses.

"We are hoping that with time, people will understand the importance of mangroves more and more because I always say in my talks, if we destroy all those mangroves, if we destroy all this forest, water will replace it. If we want to build, we will build on water, we are going to end up in water. If we want to do agriculture, everything will be drowned, so it would be more important to maintain the mangroves, if we destroy it, now, what will we eat? Because that's where fish reproduce, what will we eat?"

But awareness is growing.

In the last 20 years, mangroves have recovered from being one of the world's fastest-shrinking habitats to one of the best-protected with over 40% in a conservation area, a July report by the Global Mangrove Alliance found.

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