Did you know that mangroves are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet? Today we celebrate the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, but not all is celebration, current estimates show that 67% of mangroves have been lost, and nearly all will be lost over the next 100 years if we don’t take drastic measures now.
Mangroves are essential ecosystems that help advance food security, offer protection from storms and tsunamis, and sea level rise. They also provide habitats for endangered marine species and other animals that depend on them for their survival. But most importantly, they help the world by absorbing and storing significant amounts of coastal blue carbon which is essential to mitigate climate change. Mangroves are superheroes.
But, what is a Mangrove? According to the Smithsonian Mangroves are survivors. They are woody trees that live along sheltered coastlines. They all share the unique capability of growing within reach of sea tides and have evolved special adaptations that enable them to survive in salty and oxygen-poor soil, conditions that will quickly kill most plants.
Mangrove forests have other special quality, they are excellent at absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. These are among the most carbon-rich forests in the world. When mangrove trees grow, they take the carbon from carbon dioxide and use it for themselves. When the leaves fall to the seafloor and are buried in the soil, they take the stored carbon with them. This buried carbon is called blue carbon because it is underwater and when degraded or lost, the ecosystems that store this carbon can become significant emission sources. Now, remember we only have 33% of mangrove forests left, and mangrove deforestation is estimated to be around 10% of global deforestation, this is going to be a disaster. Okay, let’s not be alarmists (although we should). There is still time to change the trend and stop threatening mangrove forests. Countries are realizing the importance of these ecosystems and are working on ways to protect them.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has been working hard with our member countries to protect mangrove forest ecosystems in the region. The “Climate Resilient Coastal Management and Infrastructure Program” in Bahamas, is building resilience to coastal risks through the sustainable coastal protection infrastructure. This program will also finance science-based shoreline stabilization and restoration of coastal natural habits such as mangroves and reefs.
So, as you can see, mangroves can literally save the world. Multilateral Development Banks and other international organizations, such as Conservation International (CI), are working with local and national governments to promote coastal and marine policy that will ensure the long-term conservation of mangrove ecosystems. Happy International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem!
Continue reading: What are the 5 superpowers or mangroves?