Loss of Climate-Crucial Mangrove Forests Has Slowed to Near-Negligable Amount Worldwide, Report Hails

Reprinted with permission from World At Large, a news website of nature, politics, science, health, and travel.

Mangrove forests in Indonesia – Photo by CIFOR, CC 2.0 license

They are one of the most unique and fundamental types of forest on our planet, and for several decades they have been lost at a rate that soon seems fatal. But with the 2022 State of the Mangrove report, a new picture emerges of changing trends and attitudes towards these trees, which play a crucial role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

This is the second annual report, and it uses brand new Global Mangrove Watch satellite maps that provide much better detail for this year’s analysis.

Today, 42% of all mangrove forests worldwide are below a protection level. The updated maps calculate that 147,000 square kilometers of the Earth’s surface (57,000 sq-miles) are covered in mangroves, more than previously thought.

Compared to the previous 14 years, the average loss between 2010 and 2022 has decreased by 600% – to just 25 sq-miles per year (66 km2), or 0.04%.

Conditions for coastal trees are also improving, not only because of dedicated efforts to reforest mangroves, but also because, as climate change policy around the world boils down to a carbon-in-carbon-out equation, aquatic ecosystems such as mangroves become clear the most. important ecosystems of all.

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The report aims to present a clear and simple cost-benefit analysis for politicians to show that for three key issues facing coastal populations, a mission of “Stop loss, restore half, double protection”, the most effective and achievable strategy is.

Mangrove forest at Lake Tabarisia in Papua – Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR, CC 2.0 license

Hold, reverse, protect

Conservation outlet Mongabay reports on the summary and details that in the December 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed 200,000 people, Sri Lankan researchers estimated that – per hectare per household – mangroves, of which Sri Lanka had very little, gave $14,500 in economic value . , partly because they can absorb 70-90% of the kinetic energy of a tsunami wave.

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The State of the Mangrove 2022 estimates that coastal communities near mangroves around the world will enjoy property and real estate protection equal to about $65 billion through this protection from storms and waves.

For this and other reasons, the report recommends that countries and partners work to do three things: halt the loss of mangroves completely, restore half of what has been lost since 1996, which equates to approximately 1,580 sq-miles (4,092 km2 ), and double the area of ​​protected trees worldwide.

With the addition of the new maps, the report identified approximately 3,100 square kilometers of mangroves that could be restored (8,100 km2), with a particular focus on Southeast Asia and in countries such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and others, where many of the mangroves of the world can be found.

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More reasons to love mangroves

Worldwide, about 4.1 million working fishermen rely on mangroves to act as nurseries for all kinds of creatures. The Executive Summary claims that more than 600 billion shrimp and fish, and 100 billion bivalves and crustaceans thrive in mangrove forests each year.

Mangroves are critical for an estimated 893,000 small-scale fishers in Indonesia alone, while 82% and 89% of those in Bangladesh and Nigeria fish primarily in and around mangroves.

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But in the halls of power around the world, what will likely evolve to give the true value of mangroves is their potential power to store carbon. Based on the chemical, geological and biological reality of growth in water bodies, mangroves are estimated to hold up to four times the amount of carbon than some other forest ecosystems.

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Mangrove soils worldwide store the equivalent of 22.86 gigatons of CO2, or about 6.23 gigatons of soil carbon. This is more than half of what the human population currently emits each year.

“The loss of even just 1% of the remaining mangroves could lead to the emission of 0.23 gigatons of CO2 equivalent – equivalent to over 520 million barrels of oil, or the annual emissions of 49 million cars in the United States,” write the authors .

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For this reason, protection recommendations for an additional half of all mangrove forests are critical. The report’s recommended restorations would save another 1.27 gigatons of CO2 equivalent.

Some of the largest restoration programs currently underway in the world include Senegal – where in the regions of Casamance and Sine Saloum, 80 km2 have been reforested so far, a total of almost 80 million trees – and Indonesia, where President Joko Widodo tried. Reforestation 6,000 km2. China has successfully restored 4 km2 of mangrove forests in Zhanjian, Guangdong Province, totaling about 4 million trees.

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