Mangroves are a valuable resource for climate mitigation and biodiversity protection. After losing a third of their stock in two decades, the world is called to regenerate these precious aquatic forests
by Matteo Cavallito
Fifteen years of activity and a unique goal: saving the mangroves from the impact of climate change and man-made destruction. Here is Manyunyu Community Organization, a Kenya-based association committed tirelessly to protecting one of the biosphere’s most precious and undervalued resources.
Founded in 2007, as recently reported by the U.S. website Daily Beast, the organization includes almost thirty local young people who are called to perform basically two duties: planting specimens in selected locations and monitoring illegal deforestation.
From the kenya-based community 10,000 plants in 15 years
The operations, conducted near Monbasa, on the Kenyan coast, represent a response to environmental devastation. Used as fuel as well as construction material, mangroves have been illegally cut for years, altering the balance of the coastal ecosystem. This trend has favored the death of fish, thus limiting food security. Created as a grassroots initiative as an alternative to poor government action – a scheme which is not unusual for the country – the association has currently planted about 10K specimens.
“The youths in this group are all environment and climate change activists,” said one of the members. “We know the vital role mangroves play to our community and in the world by reducing carbon emissions—hence our efforts in restoring them.”
In twenty years the world has lost a third of its mangroves
Between 1980 and 2000, says U.S. think tank One Earth, the world has lost about 35% of its mangroves. During the 21st century the situation has improved and today, according to the latest report of the NGO Global Mangrove Alliance, 42% of the mangroves are found in protected areas. Despite this, however, between 1996 and 2016, the Planet recorded a 4.3% net loss of such trees. In other words, the growth rate has not been fast enough to compensate for the losses.
The report also says that 60% of these losses are related to human activities (primarily deforestation). The remaining part is the result of the action of nature which, however, is also affected by climate change. Rise in sea level, in particular, represents a threat to mangroves which, in such circumstances, are literally swallowed up by the waters.
A resource for climate, biodiversity and soil conservation
The good news, says the NGO, is that more than 6,600 square kilometers of forests lost since 1996 would be ” highly restorable”. This goal is more important than ever considering the high contribution offered by these plants in the protection of biodiversity and climate mitigation. The mangrove forests in fact, “are home to a rich fauna, including 341 internationally threatened species, ranging from tigers to seahorses. The structure and productivity of mangroves enables them to support rich fisheries,” says the report.
Moreover, specimens show high carbon sequestrestation capacity. According to the study, in fact, mangroves on the planet prevent over 21 billion tons of CO2 emissions. These plants, in addition, “act as permeable dams, dampening storm surges and reducing damage.” According to estimates, says Global Alliance, these trees are thus able to avoid over $65 billion damage per year by reducing flooding risk for about 15 million people.