Mangroves are nature’s buffer zone between land and sea. To the naked eye, these are vegetations along some coasts, mostly in brackish water areas. However, mangroves are elaborate ecosystems that house a variety of marine life, and also serve as their nursing grounds. In addition to this, they are a crucial line of defense against storm surges, flooding, erosion, and even intense waves. They are also potent carbon sinks, possibly even more effective than land-based carbon sinks.
Along with being a significant part of the coastal environment, mangroves also play a part in sustaining the lives of coastal communities. They sustain marine life that acts as a fundamental source of coastal livelihood, and also shelters them against disasters by checking their strength. Mangroves have always been crucial. However, it has never been as important to reiterate their value and contribution as it is today.
Across the planet, over 3.5 million acres of mangroves have been lost between 1990 to 2020. Between the years 2000 to 2016, about 0.13% of mangroves around the world are being lost on an average, annually. On the contrary, about 2000 sq. kilometres of mangrove plantation has happened over the past forty years.
Adding to the importance of this ecosystem is a new study, which has highlighted the economic benefits that mangrove restoration and conservation may yield in the long term. According to the new research, each dollar spent on mangrove restoration may yield returns between $6.83-$10.50 over the next couple of decades.
“The outcomes of mangrove restoration are not a new topic, but the majority of research projects are field studies that examine only one or two specific sites for a limited number of ecological outcomes. Thus, we miss the ‘big picture.’ This inspired me to aggregate all these results, to know how restored mangroves perform compared to other mangrove conditions globally. Restored mangroves performed slightly worse than natural mangroves for most of the individual ecosystem functions studied, but the important thing is they performed much better than the unvegetated mud, sand flats, or abandoned aquaculture ponds, and they were on par with degraded and naturally regenerated mangroves,” said Jie Su, first author of the study.
While the importance of mangroves is evident and known, there is a lack of consistent effort to ensure minimal loss and maximum restoration of these ecosystems around the world. Climate change and the resultant sea-level increase remain one of the most important reasons for mangrove loss globally. Another reason is shrimp farming. Usually, mangroves are cleared and the spaces are then used to create farms. The farms are later discarded, leaving the land as well as the water too polluted to sustain mangrove-like vegetation again naturally. Incorrect replantation or restoration efforts also contribute to mangrove losses.
The significance of mangroves is undeniable, but there may be a visible lack of efforts in the right direction. The decade of 2021-2030 has been declared as the ‘United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’ when the conservation and restoration of wetlands, including mangroves, will be in focus.
I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.