GAZI BAY, Kenya, Sept 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – For fishing communities on Kenya's southern coast, felling mangrove trees to make boats has long been a part of life.But traditional attitudes toward the mangroves are shifting, as communities become aware of a new benefit from keeping the trees standing: cash payments for carbon storage.Local people who are protecting and replanting mangroves are now selling 3,000 tonnes of carbon credits a year to international buyers, for about $5-$6 a tonne. The money goes into financing more forest protection and restoration, and to community-chosen projects."We have rehabilitated Gazi and Makongeni primary schools, bought textbooks for the pupils and provided piped water to the residents in both villages," said Ali Salim, chairman of Mikoko Pamoja (Mangroves Together), the community organisation working to protect local mangroves and reap the benefits.In 2011, residents of Makongeni and Gazi villages – home to about 6,000 people – began working with the Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) to protect 117 hectares (290 acres) of mangroves, or about 20 percent of the mangrove forest in Gazi Bay.Besides protecting the trees themselves, the effort aims to improve local fisheries, as many species of fish breed and raise their young in shoreline mangroves, and build resilience to worsening storm surges and coastal erosion, which can be slowed by mangroves.Mangrove forests can also help regulate coastal rainfall, ensuring supplies of water.But mangrove forests are also particularly effective at absorbing carbon dioxide, one of the major drivers of climate change. James Kairo, a principal scientist at KMFRI, said that mangrove ecosystems can capture five times as much carbon as similar land ecosystems.