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Mangroves to Overcome Climate Change and Pollution in Jakarta

The Mangrove ecosystem plays a significant role in carbon and pollutant absorption and in coastal protection.
Mangrove forest in Shenzhen Bay, China. (Source: Shutterstock)

Heat and Pollution in Jakarta

Global climate change, including rising global temperatures and increased extreme weather events, has become a serious threat to many cities worldwide, including Jakarta. Floods, heatwaves, and rising sea levels are some of the impacts that can damage urban infrastructure and endanger the well-being of residents. Meanwhile, urban pollution issues like those in Jakarta cannot be ignored. Air pollution from motor vehicles and industries can result in poor air quality, affecting public health, and harming the environment.

To address these challenges, solutions are needed to reduce carbon emissions and invest in green urban infrastructure. One such solution is the planting and preservation of mangrove ecosystems.

Mangrove ecosystems offer various advantages and capabilities to protect coastlines and help filter air and water pollution, which are pressing issues in Jakarta and other urban areas vulnerable to global climate change and urban pollution problems.

Table of Content:

Mangrove Ecosystem: Introduction and Biodiversity

A. Definition and Characteristics of the Mangrove Ecosystem

The mangrove ecosystem is found in coastal areas that are regularly or periodically inundated by seawater and influenced by tidal movements but not significantly affected by the climate. It differs from the downstream riverine or estuarine coastal areas, which are influenced by tidal movements.

Mangrove ecosystems can be found in regions near the equator in tropical areas and slightly into subtropical regions. In Indonesia, the mangrove ecosystem covers approximately 3.5 million hectares, making it the largest mangrove ecosystem in the world, surpassing countries like Brazil (1.3 million ha), Nigeria (1.1 million ha), and Australia (0.97 ha). Indonesia's mangrove ecosystem encompasses about 23% of the world's total mangrove ecosystem area and is the most diverse, with 92 different mangrove species.

In Indonesia, extensive mangrove ecosystems are primarily found around the relatively calm waters of the Sunda Shelf, including the eastern coast of Sumatra and the western and southern coasts of Kalimantan. In northern Java, mangrove forests have been reduced in size due to land needs. In eastern Indonesia, particularly along the Sahul Shelf, well-preserved mangrove forests can still be found, especially around Bintuni Bay. Papua, with approximately 1.3 million hectares of mangrove, accounts for about a third of Indonesia's total mangrove forest area.

Mangrove ecosystems have unique characteristics, characterized by their aerial roots that protrude above the surface. They thrive in brackish water, a mix of freshwater and saltwater, and are strongly influenced by tidal movements.

These ecosystems are often associated with sediment deposition and the accumulation of organic material. The dominant plant species in mangrove ecosystems typically belong to similar genera, creating a relatively homogenous forest.

Mangrove ecosystems also possess adaptability to both saltwater and freshwater and are resilient to climatic factors due to their unique root systems that enable them to thrive in the humid and brackish seabed environment.

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B. The Advantages of the Mangrove Ecosystem and Its Biodiversity

The mangrove habitat serves as a connecting zone between the land and aquatic environments, and as a result, the characteristics of various fauna or biota living within this ecosystem exhibit distinct features and boast incredibly high biodiversity (Afonso et al. 2016). Being a suitable habitat for various types of fauna, the mangrove ecosystem naturally harbors a diverse array of species.

The dependence of terrestrial organisms on mangroves is extensive, both directly and indirectly, whether permanently or temporarily.

Temporary organisms living in the vicinity of the mangrove ecosystem typically occupy the upper parts of mangrove trees. These include insects, birds, bats, monkeys, langurs, fishing cats, monitor lizards, and snakes. On the other hand, organisms that permanently inhabit the mangrove ecosystem are mostly found on hard, muddy substrates and in the water among the mangrove roots.

Mangrove fauna living on substrates can be submerged in muddy holes, live on the substrate's surface, or attach themselves to the tree roots. During low tide, these fauna descend to search for food. Several species commonly found in Indonesia's mangrove ecosystems include Gastropoda, Crustacea, Bivalvia, Hirudinea, Polychaeta, and Amphibi.

The roles played by various types of fauna are crucial in maintaining nutrient balance within this ecosystem. Apart from being detritus consumers, some of them also function as decomposers of organic matter scattered throughout the ecosystem (Afonso et al. 2016).

Furthermore, the mangrove ecosystem serves as a habitat and nursery ground for various economically valuable fish species such as milkfish, mullet, pufferfish, pomfret, catfish, and mudskipper, which can even move on land. This highlights that the mangrove ecosystem is essential not only from an ecological standpoint but also economically significant.

Mangroves and Their Role in Addressing Climate Change

The Mangrove Ecosystem as a Natural Solution to Preventing and Addressing Climate Change, Including Rising Temperatures and Sea Level Rise.
The Nibung River Settlement Living in Harmony with Mangroves at the Mouth of the Terus River, Kalimantan. (Source: Oceanwise)

A. Carbon Sequestration in the Air and Water

The mangrove ecosystem, often referred to as the “sea forest”, plays a crucial role in mitigating climate change. One of its significant contributions is its ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by human activities.

Mangrove forests growing in brackish water have a high carbon sequestration capacity. Despite mangrove forests making up only about 1% of the world's tropical forests, their ability to store carbon is exceptionally high compared to other ecosystem types.

Mangroves, like other plants, absorb carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis. They use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. However, what makes them special is their ability to absorb large amounts of carbon within their soil and tissues.

The branching roots of mangroves create a rich environment of mud and organic sediment, which is ideal for carbon sequestration. This process results in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere, helping to maintain the balance of the global climate.

Moreover, mangroves also play a crucial role in protecting coastlines from the impacts of climate change. With their strong roots, they act as natural barriers that reduce coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels and tropical storms. This not only safeguards coastal communities from flooding and damage but also preserves vital coastal ecosystems.

In the face of climate change, the protection and restoration of mangrove ecosystems are becoming increasingly crucial. Efforts to preserve mangrove ecosystems will not only assist in absorbing excess carbon emissions but also contribute to the sustainability of vulnerable coastal ecosystems in the wake of climate change impacts.

B. Protection against Coastal Erosion and Storm Surges in Coastal Areas

Mangrove ecosystems play an extraordinary role in reducing the impact of coastal erosion and flooding caused by rising sea levels. Mangroves can act as natural barriers that create sediment deposition as a natural flood defense.

Furthermore, mangroves' ability to absorb water efficiently also helps reduce the duration of standing water caused by floods. They also serve as natural barriers that can withstand large sea waves, reducing the risk of coastal erosion and ensuring the sustainability of coastal environments. A real-life example illustrating this crucial role can be found in Jakarta and its surrounding areas.

Rising sea levels, resulting from climate change, have become a serious issue for coastal cities worldwide. Jakarta, as one of the world's most populous cities located on the coast, faces a serious threat from coastal erosion and flooding. However, the mangrove ecosystem along the northern coast of Jakarta has played a significant role in protecting the city.

Mangroves growing along the Jakarta coastline act as a "natural shield" that reduces the impact of ocean waves. Their strong and dense roots can hold coastal soil and mud, reducing coastal erosion. Additionally, mangroves act as a protective buffer, absorbing wave energy and slowing down tidal flows, significantly reducing the risk of flooding.

During the transition from 2019 to 2020, Jakarta experienced one of its worst floods in decades, and the mangrove ecosystem demonstrated its vital value. The northern areas of Jakarta that still had healthy mangrove ecosystems experienced lower flood impacts compared to other areas.

According to research conducted by Menendez et al. (2020), mangroves can reduce sea-level rise and address tidal flooding and erosion. This occurs because the mangrove ecosystem has a dense network of roots and trees that tend to surround the coastal edges. The roots of the mangrove ecosystem can also stabilize the soil in tidal areas and reduce erosion. Mangrove roots, stems, and canopies can also attenuate waves and tides during storms. According to McIvor et al. (2016) research, mangroves can reduce up to 66% of wave energy in the first 100 meters of the forest width. Mangroves can also provide adaptive defense when there is coastal subsidence.

The Role of the Mangrove Ecosystem in Addressing Pollution in Jakarta

The Mangrove Ecosystem's Capacity to Absorb Carbon Emissions and Air Pollution Exceeds That of Other Ecosystems.
Mangrove ecosystems have the ability to absorb carbon emissions and air pollution at a higher rate compared to other ecosystems. (Source: Ardiles Rante/Vox)

A. Filtering Pollutants in the Air and Water

Jakarta, as one of the world's most densely populated metropolitan cities, often faces serious issues of air and water pollution. In efforts to maintain the quality of Jakarta's air and water, the mangrove ecosystem serves as a practical solution as a pollutant filter. Here is an explanation of how mangroves filter pollutants.

  • Filtering Pollutants from the Air: Mangrove trees have leaves and roots that can capture pollutant particles such as dust, heavy metals, and other hazardous chemical compounds (Yadav et al. 2023). Additionally, the mangrove ecosystem contributes to balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, mangroves absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and produce oxygen (O2), helping to reduce the levels of CO2 contributing to global climate change. Increasing the number of mangrove trees in the coastal areas of Jakarta can play a role in reducing elevated levels of carbon dioxide pollution and maintaining a more stable climate (Wilda et al. 2020). In addition to air filtering, mangroves also have the ability to mitigate the urban heat island effect. The dense foliage of mangrove leaves provides shade and reduces the surrounding air temperature, offering comfort to visitors in the mangrove area.

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  • Filtering Pollutants from Water: The branching roots of mangroves create an incredibly effective protective zone for filtering pollutants from industrial and domestic wastewater that often reaches rivers and waterways. The sediment that settles among the mangrove roots contains a lot of organic matter and sediments that can bind pollutants such as heavy metals and excess nutrients. This process helps purify the water before it reaches deeper marine ecosystems, maintaining ecosystem balance and reducing the negative impact of pollution on marine life. Furthermore, mangrove roots play a role in controlling water flow, reducing soil erosion, and slowing down tidal flows that can carry pollutants from land to the sea.

B. Processing Organic Waste from the Environment

The mangrove ecosystem also has a unique ability to address the issue of organic waste, which is often a challenge in coastal areas. Mangroves not only act as pollutant filters but also play a role in natural organic waste processing.

The roots of mangroves efficiently process organic waste from the water. The mud and sediments collected among the mangrove roots contain organic matter that accelerates the decomposition of organic waste. Microorganisms living in this mud also aid in breaking down organic waste, converting it into simpler compounds, and reducing water pollution levels (Zhang et al. 2021).

Furthermore, mangroves have the ability to absorb excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which are often the causes of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) that can harm aquatic life and the environment. Mangrove roots can absorb these nutrients and mitigate their impact on deeper marine ecosystems. Additionally, water in a healthy mangrove ecosystem has higher oxygen levels, supporting the growth of microorganisms that aid in the decomposition process.

The role of mangroves in addressing pollution in Jakarta goes beyond ecological elements. The protection, restoration, and preservation of the mangrove ecosystem are crucial steps in supporting the quality of life and climate change mitigation efforts that can impact urban and coastal communities.

Challenges and Threats to the Mangrove Ecosystem in Jakarta

Urbanization and coastal land use are significant reasons for the reduction of mangrove ecosystems in Indonesia.
The conversion of mangrove ecosystems into shrimp farms or human settlements is one of the key reasons for the decline in mangrove ecosystems. (Source: Alex Punker/ I Stock)

A. Impact of Urbanization and Land Use Change

The increasing urbanization in urban areas, such as land conversion into settlements and infrastructure development, poses a threat to the sustainability of mangrove ecosystems. Land conversion occurs due to the growing demand for urban space, leading to the shrinking of mangrove ecosystems. Urbanization also brings pollution issues, such as the increase in domestic and industrial waste, which can harm water and soil quality, disrupt marine life, and damage the sustainability of mangrove ecosystems. (Din et al. 2017)

Hydrological changes are another impact of urbanization. Urban infrastructure development such as dams, canals, and drainage systems can alter the water flow patterns in coastal areas, affecting tidal patterns and river flows, which can disrupt the growth and reproduction of mangroves and reduce the ecosystem's ability to cope with climate change. (Akram et al. 2023).

Urbanization can also result in habitat alienation for various species that depend on the mangrove ecosystem. Habitat loss can threaten the sustainability of populations of various species, including fish, birds, and other animals that live within and around mangrove areas.

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B. Threats of Pollution and Ecosystem Damage Due to Human Activities

The mangrove ecosystem, despite its ability to absorb pollutants, can still be affected and disrupted when exposed to high levels of pollution. One of the threats to the mangrove ecosystem is high levels of heavy metals and hazardous chemicals that can affect the reproduction and growth of mangroves.

Moreover, high pollution can poison the marine life living in the mangrove ecosystem, such as fish, crabs, and mollusks. In some cases, pollution can lead to mass die-offs of organisms in coastal ecosystems.

To address the impact of pollution on the mangrove ecosystem, various restoration and rehabilitation efforts have been undertaken. One such effort is improved waste management to prevent water and soil pollution in mangrove areas. Additionally, mangrove restoration projects involving the planting of mangrove trees have been carried out in various coastal regions, including the Kepulauan Seribu, Jakarta. Through mangrove planting, it is hoped that damaged mangrove ecosystems can be restored and pollution from industrial and human activities can be mitigated.

In addition to mangrove rehabilitation projects, public awareness of the importance of the mangrove ecosystem in maintaining environmental balance is a key element in recovery efforts. Public participation in understanding the benefits and significance of mangrove ecosystems is expected to contribute to more sustainable actions to reduce pollution and emissions from daily activities, thereby helping protect and preserve the sustainability of mangrove ecosystems.

Mangrove for a Better Jakarta

To address the increasing problem of air and water pollution in Jakarta, CarbonEthics and Transjakarta have collaborated on the #BersihBerdayaBestari campaign. Through this campaign, the public can actively participate in reducing pollution levels in the city of Jakarta and in protecting and restoring the mangrove ecosystem in the Kepulauan Seribu by participating in mangrove planting activities through the website With this initiative, it is hoped that the public can make a positive contribution to environmental protection and the preservation of the mangrove ecosystem's balance for a better Indonesia.


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