Mangrove patches deserve greater recognition no matter the size

January 18, 2019

Governments must provide stronger protection for crucial small mangrove patches, is the call led by scientists at international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London), which hosts the IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group, in a letter published in Science today (18 January 2019).

With nearly 35% of mangroves lost from around the world since the 1980s, primarily due to coastal development, the future loss of seemingly small mangrove patches to new construction projects such as airports or aquaculture is extremely worrying for coastal communities and Critically Endangered wildlife like the pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) and green sawfish (Pristis zijsron) that are protected by, and reliant on, these habitats.

Large swathes of mangroves in Southeast Asia, such as in the Philippines, have been cleared to make way for aquaculture, mainly shrimp and fish ponds. Elsewhere, in the Maldives, mangroves are being cleared to make way for a controversial new airport to be built. Here, despite assurances being made that only 30% of mangroves would be directly affected as a result, almost 70% may have already been destroyed.

Mangroves offer vital ecosystem services to local communities, providing food, coastal protection from extreme weather events, fisheries support and key natural carbon storage facilities. They clean water by trapping sediments and pollutants and help mitigate the impacts of storm surges and tsunamis on coastal communities, particularly in vulnerable low-lying island nations.

Despite warnings from leading scientists about the dire ramifications of losing mangroves, the conversion and degradation of mangrove forests for infrastructure or agriculture still occur - especially for smaller mangrove patches.

The letter states that the continued loss of small patches of mangroves could result in the disconnect of habitats, meaning natural wildlife corridors used by species to move freely throughout the landscape could be lost. This could generate new barriers for wildlife being able to adapt to the effects of climate change, as well as low-lying island communities becoming increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather patterns such as typhoons during monsoon seasons.

Dr David Curnick, Post-doctoral Researcher at ZSL's Institute of Zoology and member of the IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group said: "Given the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's projections, we simply cannot afford to lose more mangrove forests, irrespective of their size.

"All too often mangroves are regarded as irrelevant swamps or wastelands - yet they're incredibly important ecosystems. Globally, yes, mangrove conservation is being looked at, but it's these smaller patches of mangroves in remote areas that need greater recognition.

"We need governments to move away from policy decisions that prioritise large areas and short-term local political gains, and instead adopt a more well-rounded long-term vision, ensuring the value of smaller mangrove patches are appreciated and safeguarded."

Though Mangroves are covered under international agreements including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage - these are only recommendations and thus mangrove forests are still one of the most severely threatened and undervalued ecosystems on Earth.

The ecosystem services provided by mangroves are conservatively estimated at around £1.2 billion (US $1.6 billion) globally, suggesting that no matter their size, they are key to meeting commitments like the Paris Climate Agreement.

ZSL hosts the IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group and supports projects around the globe helping to rehabilitate mangrove forests using 'Community-based Mangrove Rehabilitation approaches in countries like the Philippines, where over 50% of mangroves have been lost. Over a four-year period, close to 100,000 mangroves have been planted, with the rehabilitation of 107.8 hectares of mangrove forest well underway.

Learn more about ZSL's mangrove restoration work here: https://www.zsl.org/conservation/regions/asia/rehabilitating-mangroves-in-the-philippines
-end-
Notes to editors

Media contact

Emma Ackerley, emma.ackerley@zsl.org / +44 (0) 20 7449 6288

Download the video/images available here: https://zslondon.sharefile.com/d-s9780710261249e18

ZSL


ZSL (Zoological Society of London) is an international conservation charity working to create a world where wildlife thrives. From investigating the health threats facing animals to helping people and wildlife live alongside each other, ZSL is committed to bringing wildlife back from the brink of extinction. Our work is realised through our ground-breaking science, our field conservation around the world and engaging millions of people through our two zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information, visit http://www.zsl.org

The IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group (MSG)

Formed in late 2013 to address the alarming decline in mangrove habitat globally, the MSG aims to support mangrove research and conservation projects by bringing together experts in the field to share their knowledge. Hosted by ZSL (Zoological Society of London), the group aims to; assess the conservation status of mangroves; identify, quantify and prioritise threats; and develop plans to conserve the most threatened species and habitats. The group comprises members from across the globe including Africa, Australasia, East and Southeast Asia, Europe, North and South America and South and Central Asia.

Use of ZSL images and video

Photographs, video or graphics distributed by ZSL (Zoological Society of London) to support this media release may only be used for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the persons in the image or facts mentioned in the media release or image caption. Reuse of the picture or video requires further permission from the press office of ZSL.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

You are currently on the Zoological Society London (ZSL) databases as a press contact. We class press contacts as the journalists, press officers and those working within science communications who have helped ensure the ZSL can continue its mission to ensure the public have access to the best scientific evidence and expertise through the news media when science hits the headlines. Due to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we are letting you know that we hold and process your data under legitimate interest. At any time, you can object to the holding or processing of your data, and we will remove you from our database. More information on what we hold, why we keep it and what we use it for is available in our privacy statement. If you have any further questions, please get in touch.

Zoological Society of London

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.