Dr. Chandra Silori, Coordinator of RECOFTC’s Grassroots Capacity Building for REDD+ project, takes an in-depth look at mangroves, outlining the many critical benefits that these ecosystems provide and examining the uniquely powerful abilities of these “blue carbon sinks” to aid in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Mangroves Include 73 Species in 123 Countries
Mangroves are highly productive, biodiversity-rich, inter-tidal forest ecosystems adapted to survive in the harsh interface between land and sea. Mangrove plants are mostly trees and large shrubs, but also include ferns and a palm species. According to the 2010 World Atlas of Mangroves, there are a total of 73 species and hybrids, which are considered to be true mangroves – those that have adapted to mangrove environments and are rarely found elsewhere. Thirty-eight of these species might be considered ‘core species’ that typify mangroves and dominate in most locations. The remainder are either not so abundant or are found mostly on the fringes of mangrove habitats. Mangrove
Mangroves are found in 123 countries, covering an area of 152,360 km2. However, despite wide distribution, over two-thirds of the world’s mangroves are found in just 12 countries, with Indonesia alone accounting for over 20% of the total mangrove cover of the world. On a regional scale, Southeast Asia has one-third (51,049 km2) of the world’s mangroves – more than any other region in the world. This can be attributed to the region’s highly conducive environment for the growth of mangrove forests, characterized by such qualities as a humid climate, high rainfall, and a number of rivers with large deltas supplying freshwater and sediments. The important ones include the Ayeyarwady delta in Myanmar (Burma), the Mekong in Vietnam, and the extensive deltaic coastline along southern Papua in Indonesia. Moreover, the region is also known as the global center of mangrove diversity, with 51 species, which is 71% of the total mangrove species found all over the world.
Other large areas of mangrove forests are found along the coastlines of South and Central America and West and Central Africa, northeast India and northern Australia. The best known area for mangroves in the whole world is the Sundarbans, a vast mangrove forest that spreads across the boundary between India and Bangladesh and covers an area of 6,500 km2, extending up to 85 km inland.
Coastal Populations Depend on Mangroves
Mangroves are one of the most productive ecosystems on the earth. They perform a variety of useful ecological, bio-physical, and socio-economic functions, and are the source of a multitude of benefits to coastal populations.
The timber from mangrove forests is used for a variety of purposes, including for making houses, boats, and fish traps. In many countries, mangrove wood is used to produce charcoal, and as firewood. There are a number of other non-timber benefits extracted from the range of mangrove forest species, including honey, tannin from bark, thatch material, edible fruits, fodder,
and medicinal properties of certain species with potential commercial applications and recreational values.
The entangled roots of mangrove forests help to stabilize coastal areas through sediment capture and bio-filtration of nutrients and some pollutants from the water, and reducing coastal erosion. The aerial roots of mangroves hold back sediments and reduce pollutants from sewage and aquaculture in estuaries and coastal waters.Coastal protection is another important function of mangrove forests, serving as a natural barrier against storms, typhoons, and tsunami, and thus protecting coastal inhabitants. Recent experiences of tsunami and major storms in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world have shown that mangroves can and have played important roles in absorbing and weakening wave energy as well as preventing damage caused by debris movement.
Mangrove forests play an important role in providing breeding grounds and habitats to a variety of fishes and other marine species of high commercial value, including mud crabs, mollusks, and prawns. Mangroves have been estimated to support 30% of the fish catch and almost 100% of the shrimp catch in Southeast Asia. The valuation of mangroves to fisheries alone has been estimated at US$ 1,700 per hectare per year in Matang, Malaysia.
– See more at: http://www.recoftc.org/site/resources/Mangroves-more-Carbon-Rich-and-Important-for-Climate-Change.php#sthash.XT34KcTH.dpuf