Sparks

Apple saves the mangrove forests

 By Karla Lant

You may have mixed feelings about the latest products from Apple, but everyone can get behind the tech giant’s latest environmental initiative. On September 14, Apple announced that it is investing in a project to restore mangrove forests along the Colombian shoreline…

The mangrove project, undertaken in partnership with NGO Conservation International (CI), is focused in the Sinú River Delta. This delta is the source of firewood, food and the raw materials to support livelihoods for about 12,000 people.
However, the area is now stressed, and local people need the financial security that only more sustainable fishing and tourism can bring them. The project will assist local people in establishing and honing these practices with support from Conservation International.
The restoration will include both preserving existing trees and planting new trees in degraded areas. The project will return healthy mangroves in a 27,000-acre forest, enabling it to sequester up to 17,000 metric tons (18,739 tons) of atmospheric CO2 in two years. That’s as much carbon dioxide as the entire Apple Maps fleet will produce in the decade to come. Over its lifetime, the restored mangroves will capture approximately 1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.

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Sinú river is a located in northwestern Colombia and is navigable for only half of its length (locationcolombia.com)

Protecting mangroves so they can protect us

Mangrove forests are one of nature’s most critical protections against climate change, for multiple reasons. Mangroves protect coastal communities from extreme weather conditions including storm surge—something even more important as climate change continues to warm the atmosphere.
Mangrove forests also absorb and store as much as ten times more carbon than forests on land. This makes mangroves Earth’s densest carbon storage habitat—and an irreplaceable carbon sink.
All trees store carbon in their branches and leaves. Mangroves are unique because they grow along the coastline, forcing carbon into the ground through their roots underwater. This underwater sequestration process, or “blue carbon“, has inspired Apple to invest in the project and do research on blue carbon.
According to Fast Company, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of environment, policy and social initiatives, announced the mangrove project to the public at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September. “I’m here today to tell you—unequivocally—that there is no conflict between a healthy planet and a healthy bottom line. It’s a false choice, and it’s one we must reject,” said Jackson.

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Mangroves store carbon in their branches and leaves forcing it into the ground through their roots underwater, this process is called "blue carbon" (Ji-Elle, Wikimedia)

In its position, Apple joins a growing international chorus of experts, including UNESCO, the World Bank and the Smithsonian, who warn that mangrove forests must be preserved.
This move to protect mangroves is part of Apple’s larger drive to transform its operations to be as sustainable as possible. For example, Apple works to protect and create forests to offset its depletion of resources used for product packaging. It also issues green bonds and invests in renewable energy, both for its own data centers and throughout its supply chain. As of 2018, all of the company’s electrical use is 100 percent renewable.
Apple’s mangrove project takes a page out of nature’s playbook to create more elegant environmental solutions, setting a model for others. Looking to nature for design solutions pays off, and Apple is hoping its blue carbon investment will be another winner. By pushing toward aggressive environmental goals and offsetting emissions, Apple wins no matter what comes of the research investment—especially in the eyes of modern consumers.

 

Cover image by Anton Bielousov

about the author
Karla Lant