Wetlands International

Mangroves for Coastal Resilience


Courtesy of Courtesy of Wetlands International

Coastal wetlands such as mangrove forests strongly contribute to the safety, food security and income of tens of millions of people throughout the tropics. Wetlands International has helped to restore and conserve thousands of hectares of mangrove forests, closely working with coastal communities. We aim to increase coastal resilience and reduce disaster risk by championing and enabling management, restoration and sustainable use of this invaluable ecosystem.

Mangrove forests serve as natural assets and provide insurance for coastal areas all over the world. They are among the most productive ecosystems, providing fuel wood, timber and fish. As such, mangroves are engines for economic growth. They also act as natural buffers against erosion and extreme weather, reduce coastal erosion and intrusion of salt water. This coastal ecosystem is biodiversity-rich, connecting freshwater and saltwater environments and providing habitat for many specialised animal species such as waterbirds, and a wide variety of mammals, gastropods and shellfish. Mangroves are especially valuable as a nursery and breeding area for many kinds of fish, including commercially important species. Around 30% of the fish catch and nearly 100% of wild shrimp catch in Southeast Asia are located on mangrove areas and in Queensland, Australia, mangroves support 75% of commercial fish species. Additionally, mangrove forests have an important climatic function; they sequester carbon through accumulation in their biomass and through burial in sediment deposits.

Rapid loss of mangrove forests
Despite their biodiversity and economic values, many native mangrove ecosystems along the tropical shorelines of Asia, Africa and Latin America are severely degraded or completely destroyed. The total global mangrove area has declined by 25% from an estimated original 20 million ha. The current mangrove deforestation rates are estimated at 0.66%, 3-5 times as much as the average overall global forest loss. Shrimp aquaculture in Asia, in particular, has caused the removal of large tracts of mangroves. Urban development, pollution and over-harvesting of wood in the coastal forests and dynamite fishing are also taking their toll.

The reason for such losses is due to lack of recognition of the fundamental role of mangroves as a vital resource base for coastal economies and the ignorance of their buffering role for communities living on vulnerable coasts. Existing knowledge on mangrove values remains highly fragmented, conflicting and sometimes confusing or difficult to be accessed by non-scientists.

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