Protecting and restoring mangrove forest ecosystem can do a lot of good for the planet because not only do mangroves protect humans by preventing soil erosion, but they also serve as filters and habitats that help protect and allow marine wildlife to flourish, according to scientists.
Audrey Azoulay, Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the world is now recognizing the value of mangroves. On International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, she called on the importance of supporting the restoration and protection of these crucial habitats.
Mangroves, the trees that grow on the boundary between land and sea, are found on tropical and sub-tropical regions, covering a total of just about 14.8 million hectares, UNESCO noted.
“They protect biodiversity by sheltering and nurturing marine life. They function like filtration systems, absorbing nutrients and pollutants. They fight coastal erosion, acting as breakwaters to dissipate storm surges and wave energy. Above all, they play an essential role as carbon sinks, sequestering atmospheric and oceanic carbon for long periods of time,” explained Azoulay.
UNESCO reported that between 1980 and 2005, some countries have lost more than 40 per cent of their mangroves due to coastal development. Today, many projects on mangrove reforestation are being implemented.
The benefits are multi-fold as researchers study the value of mangroves conservation and restoration, for small island developing states (SIDS), and link its potentials to achieving a range of international targets and commitments, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These including ending poverty or the SDG1 and hunger (SDG2) as mangroves provide livelihood as fisheries enhancement. It also provides economic opportunities such as eco-tourism (SDG8). More importantly, it helps mitigate climate change being one of the most carbon-rich forests on earth. As mentioned above, mangroves support the marine conservation and sustainable use of marine resources which is SDG14. Finally, it also deters the further loss of biodiversity, thereby meeting the SDG15 goal.
Azoulay remarked: “The world is now waking up to the importance of mangroves – and other blue carbon ecosystems, including salt marshes, seagrass beds and coastal wetlands.”
This year, UN is launching the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, where mangroves conservation is part of its initiatives.