Around the world, coastal and non-coastal communities alike, depend heavily on oceanic ecosystems, including mangrove forests, as mangroves are one of our best assets against climate change.
What is a Mangrove and Why are They so Important?
Mangroves are trees that can be found along tropical and subtropical shores, rivers, and coastlines in over 118 different countries in the tropics and subtropics. Mangroves are periodically submerged by seawater and despite this, they manage to survive! They can live and thrive, even in unstable conditions, and in locations where water is up to 100 times saltier than most other plants can tolerate. Mangrove forests are very important coastal ecosystems as they are rich in biodiversity, and like all ecosystems with a high amount of biodiversity, mangrove forests are sources of potential new medicines. They are also essential to the livelihood of local communities as they protect local communities and coastlines by acting as coastal defenders during storms and high tides and often-times positively contribute directly to local economies through tourism and their abundance of resources. On a global scale, mangrove trees also act as ocean filtration systems and they mitigate the effects of climate change as they can absorb and store more carbon dioxide than any other ecosystem on Earth.
Over 35% of the world’s mangrove population has been destroyed in just the last 20 years due to unsustainable development, aquaculture, tourism, and over-exploitation. This is concerning as mangrove forests absorb almost 10 times as much carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than other types of forests, including tropical forests (i.e. the Amazon). Mangroves absorb around 12.3 kg of CO2 every year. If we consider that most mangrove species can live more or less than 32 years, we can estimate that every single mangrove can absorb around 400 kg of CO2 in its life. Mangrove forests are a truly unique ecosystem, and they need protection.
What is Mangrove Forest Restoration?
The term mangrove restoration refers to projects whereby time, energy, and resources are devoted to directly increasing the mangrove forest’s size, health, and biodiversity.
Mangrove Restoration is growing and planting mangroves in places where they were already present, and which for various reasons (often linked to erroneous human activity) have completely or almost disappeared. The goal for this mangrove planting is to recover abandoned areas and involve local communities to let them manage and protect these forests and their inhabitants. There are many organizations around the world working on mangrove restoration and biodiversity conservation. For example, The Oceancy, a non-profit organization focused on sustainable development, helps communities in need of guidance to protect their local forests and to use their mangrove population as a source of eco-tourism through education, awareness, and training. These practices in the long term not only help restore the reef and its biodiversity but help combat climate change as a whole.
The first steps, by organizations like The Oceancy, often include training the local community in proper mangrove restoration techniques. It is then common practice to plant and sprout seeds in a safe location and replant grown mangrove seedlings of a certain height in the designated area. This increases the survival rate of these mangroves compared to just planting seeds into locations directly. The number of seedlings planted may vary due to funding and available manpower from the local communities. Mangroves can only be planted when the tide level allows for it (i.e. when there is low tide). From there, mangrove seedlings will consistently grow, giving life to a mangrove forest! On average, farmed mangroves grow about 10 to 15 cm per year, depending on the species.
How to Help Save Mangrove Forests
When conventional conservation measures are not enough to save a mangrove population, mangrove restoration is an option that can be carried out with communities through training and education. For example, the NGOs such as The Oceancy and Oceanus Conservation work together with communities, such as the local community of Salay, Philippines, to actively plant new trees, where they can recover and regrow until the forest eventually thrives again. As the threat of climate change worsens with time, ensuring that our mangrove forests are protected is a topic of paramount importance. This is the main reason for which mangrove restoration projects are extremely valuable for both the smaller communities they exist around, as well as globally through our shared air quality and health of our oceans.
Do you want to do your part and help protect mangrove forests? First, we suggest looking for sustainable alternatives to eating farmed seafood, especially from mangrove areas. Find local conservation organizations, such as The Oceancy and Oceanus Conservation , that are actively working to conserve and restore mangrove forests and donate to their projects. Your donation will be essential to protect these important global assets.
If you are interested in supporting the restoration project in Salay by adopting a mangrove tree, click here.
For more info on related projects or to donate, please visit : theoceancy.org and oceanusconservation.org
Would you like to receive more inspiration directly to your email inbox?
Please click here to register for our newsletter!
Article by: Kaylee Strehler