Frontiers: A mangrove lagoon in the time of climate change


Imagine living in a region where your livelihood depended on the frequent flooding of your property.  David Lipset has lived with and chronicled the lives of people who make such a location their home. He shared how a population of roughly 3,000 in the Murik Lakes region of Papua New Guinea is being effected by rising sea levels at the March 6 Frontiers in the Environment seminar, “A Mangrove Lagoon in the Time of Climate Change: The Politics, Science and Culture of an Intertidal Environment in Papua New Guinea.”

The Murik people live along the edges of a vast mangrove lagoon, “with no electricity, running water, or social media,” said Lipset. They forage for mollusks, crab and fish, exchanging some “in town” for carbohydrates and vegetables. They rely on the wood of the mangrove trees for firewood and to build homes. Mangroves also are part of the communication infrastructure: A ladder propped against a tree can be climbed to get a cell phone signal, Lipset said.

Mangroves provide important ecosystem services, such as protection from storm surges and carbon sequestration in sediment or in the forest biomass in which they grow, said Lipset. With increasingly violent storm surges and more frequent inundation, the mangrove environment is deteriorating, making it harder for the Murik to survive, according to Lipset.

The United Nations has established a program for financing mangrove conservation in other parts of the world, which has been found to be an effective intervention for mitigating climate change. The Murik hope the program will expand to Papua New Guinea, when they would be paid as “mangrove tenders,” according to Lipset.

To learn more about the role mangroves and climate change play in the lives of the Murik people, check out the video recording of Lipset’s Frontiers talk.

And join us at noon CT April 10 in St. Paul or live online for the next Frontiers in the Environment talk: “Air Pollution Kills! So What?” by IonE resident fellow Julian Marshall, an assistant professor of environmental engineering in the College of Science and Engineering.

Monique Dubos is a freelance writer and photographer. She currently works at the University of Minnesota.