By Daniel Kandy

The World Mangrove Atlas revealed some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the loss of mangroves has slowed to 0.7 percent  annually. The bad news is that that rate is still three to four times higher than the loss rate of land-based forest and one fifth of all of the world’s mangroves are thought to have been lost in the past three  decades.  Of the world’s original mangrove forest area, estimated at 80 million acres,  less than 37 million acres of mangroves now remain.

Mangrove forests exist in tropical and sub-tropical regions, with Indonesia, Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, and Mexico having the largest total area of mangroves. 2010 is the United Nation’s International Year of Biodiversity and there have been some positive developments in mangrove conservation. There are 1,200 protected areas in places like the Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia, and many countries, including Belize and Fiji, are beginning or escalating major mangrove restoration initiatives.

The main culprits of mangrove degradation and destruction are coastal development and shrimp farming. While these practices can bring short-term economic development, over time the shrimp farms become less and less productive, often leaving the shrimp farmer in debt, and the mangrove area damaged beyond repair.

Because mangroves provide services to people, such as purifying water and protecting the coast, experts estimate that mangroves generate up to $9,000 per hectare. This amount is considerably more than aquaculture or tourism that damages the mangroves. Mangroves are often important in local economies, providing timber for construction and a source for protein, including fish and crustaceans, who inhabit the mangroves.

Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Adam Steiner, hopes that “together, the  science and the economics can drive policy shifts.” The reduced pace of mangrove destruction is a good start, but with so much of the original mangrove forests already gone, it is time to stop destroying mangroves forever.

Read the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO)  report on mangroves between 1980 and 2005.

Daniel Kandy is a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project

Danielle Nierenberg
Danielle Nierenberg, an expert on livestock and sustainability, currently serves as Project Director of State of World 2011 for the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC-based environmental think tank. Her knowledge of factory farming and its global spread and sustainable agriculture has been cited widely in the New York Times Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, the Washington Post, and
other publications.

Danielle worked for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She is currently traveling across Africa looking at innovations that are working to alleviate hunger and poverty and blogging everyday at Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet. She has a regular column with the Mail & Guardian, the Kansas City Star, and the Huffington Post and her writing was been featured in newspapers across Africa including the Cape Town Argus, the Zambia Daily Mail, Coast Week (Kenya), and other African publications. She holds an M.S. in agriculture, food, and environment from Tufts University and a B.A. in environmental policy from Monmouth College.
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0 Responses to The World Mangrove Atlas: Hope Amid Despair

  1. Nastia October 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    I came back from Belize about a month ago, and what stoke me as truly depressing is the fact that the cruise ships do the most damage to the mangrove forests and the coral reefs. At the same time, it’s not possible to prohibit them from approaching the shallow waters, since the country is so dependent on tourism. I wish there was a way to change that and somehow promote more involved way of traveling than by a cruise ship.

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