The Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services (ACES)

What we do

ACES support community-based conservation of mangroves and seagrasses, benefitting both the environment and the communities that live alongside and depend on these incredible coastal ecosystems.

We work closely with community groups who are taking action to protect and restore their natural environment. Communities living alongside mangroves and seagrasses depend on them for their livelihoods, so putting people at the heart of conservation means that we can find solutions that work for people and nature. 

How we do what we do

We support our projects under a ‘Payments for Ecosystem Services’ model, selling carbon offsets. This means that ‘emitters’ (such as someone taking a flight) pay to offset their carbon elsewhere – in this case, in mangroves and seagrasses – by paying for activities that boost the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Online carbon calculators can tell you how much carbon dioxide was produced as a result of your flight (or other activity), and you can pay for activities such as planting of trees and restoration of seagrass that would soak up that carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is ‘carbon offsetting’.

Our credits are accredited by the Plan Vivo Foundation, a third party, independent non-profit organisation also based in Scotland who specialise in community-based management of natural resources.

Carbon offsetting is one of many ways to tackle to climate change, and as with many solutions, isn’t immune to criticism. We agree: in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to offset our carbon, its emission should be avoided altogether. For our thoughts on the debate, read our blog: hyperlink

Why we do what we do

Mangroves and seagrass are known as ‘Blue Carbon’ ecosystems because of the vast quantities of carbon that they absorb and store, not only in their roots, shoots and leaves but in the sediment beneath them. Mangroves in particular capture many times more carbon than terrestrial forests, in part thanks to their waterlogged sediments: air allows microorganisms to move in and feed on the carbon-rich soils, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The water in mangrove and seagrass sediments keeps the air, and the beasties, out. Climate change requires healthy ecosystems to be able to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and so protecting mangroves and seagrass helps in the fight against a warming planet.

Both mangroves and seagrass provide many more ‘ecosystem services’ – the benefits that people gain from the environment. They act as a buffer against waves, storms and tsunamis, a natural coastal wall that globally would cost millions to replace. Their intricate roots and shoots give protection and food to young fish and shellfish, many of which are depended on by local communities for food. They filter water, provide food for animals including turtles and dugongs, and of course they provide a fascinating, beautiful natural playground for many to explore.

Benefits for all

The carbon offsets that we sell don’t just fund the environmental protection. To be able to make conservation work for people as well as the environment, communities need to be put at the centre of the conversation. Money raised from the sale of carbon credits funds community development projects including wells, schools and youth groups. How the funds will be spent is decided on by the community at barazas, where everyone is given a say.

Our projects

Our flagship project is Mikoko Pamoja, where the communities of Gazi and Makongeni in the south of Kenya work with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to protect their mangroves. This is a pioneering Blue Carbon initiative, the first of its kind in the world and a model for similar projects across the globe. We are now exploring opportunities to add seagrass to Mikoko Pamoja, protecting the bay’s seagrass meadows and engaging the fishing community in their protection. Read more about the project here.

Building on Mikoko Pamoja’s success, a second project has launched in 2019: Vanga Blue Forest. The protected mangrove forest at VBF is four times the size of Mikoko Pamoja and will bring benefits to a larger population of people. Read more about the project here.

We aim to support the geographical expansion of projects like Mikoko Pamoja, with partners and private individuals who wish to contribute to making a difference for people living in developing country regions, where the dependency on local natural habitats is particularly great. Please get in touch with us if you think you can help us achieve this goal.