FIU scientists at Guangxi Mangrove Research Center

Scientists in front of building

Mangrove forests serve as an important reservoir for blue carbon. These ecosystems – found in 75 percent of the world’s tropical coastlines – capture and store carbon, preventing it from being emitted into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

FIU researchers traveled to the city of Beihai in Guangxi, China, to visit the Guangxi Mangrove Research Center to foster collaboration between the American and Chinese scientific communities for the preservation and research of blue carbon systems, like mangroves and seagrasses.

The team of scientists included Dr. James Fourqurean, associate director of FIU’s Institute of Environment, Dr. Rene Price, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environment, and visiting professor, Dr. Gary Kendrick, director of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Western Australia.

The researchers met with Dr. Guanglong Qiu, former post-doctoral researcher at FIU’s Seagrass Ecosystems Research Laboratory and Wuying Lin, Pew Marine Fellow in FIU’s Institute of Environment. Lin worked with Dr. Hong Liu on her master’s thesis in which she studied a rare endangered orchid. She now serves as the scientific director and chief scientist for the Guangxi Biodiversity Research and Conservation Association.

Bringing this unique group of researchers together provided a unique opportunity to examine the interconnectedness of mangrove systems worldwide. Despite being on opposite sides of the world, mangroves in south Florida are ecologically similar to those at the Shankou Mangrove Research Reserve in Guangxi, China. They are so similar that the Shankou Mangrove Research Reserve even serves as the formal sister reserve to the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which operates under a state partnership with FIU.

Scientists with seagrass

The similarity between these two systems can also sometimes pose challenges in the management of invasive species. White mangroves – Laguncularia racemose – native to Florida, are found as an invasive species within the Shankou Mangrove Research Reserve. A mangrove species found at the Shankou Mangrove Research Reserve – Bruguiera gymnorrihiza – was found as an invasive species in south Florida at The Kampong, National Tropical Botanical Garden. Cross-continental collaboration between China and the United States is truly critical in the research and management of these invasive species. These types of international scientific relationships are so important to understanding threatened ecosystems like mangroves.

Fourqurean and Qiu will continue to collaborate on research to help broaden the ecological perspective between these two vastly different nations that share similarly threatened ecosystems.