Mangroves – the habitat of hope.

Mangrove ecosystems are found in the coastal areas of most tropical countries. In recent years conservation organisations have been able to raise the profile of mangroves for people to stop considering them as just swamps. Countries seem to recognise their importance much more needs to be done to save these important habitats.

The ecosystem system services of mangroves may not yet be well appreciated despite the growing volume of research that supports this. However we do know that mangroves have the capacity to sequester large volumes of carbon, especially in the sediment, and to protect the coast and coastal communities from the impacts of climate change – sea level rise, storm surges and other climate related natural disasters.

Many Pacific communities now appreciate the link between mangroves and the above ecosystem services. For this reason the villagers of Naboutini, Vunaniu, Korotogo, Namena and Saioko in Fiji and those in Dadue, Divinai and Bubuleta villages on the east coast of Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea, are replanting and rehabilitating mangroves. PNG’s mangrove forests are second only to Indonesia in terms of species diversity with 43 recorded species. It makes up 75% of the total area of mangroves in the Pacific Islands and PNG’s mangroves are critically important for local communities and coastal ecosystems. Extractive industries pose a threat to the health of mangroves in certain provinces due to high sedimentation and release of toxic materials. Similar activities are happening all over the two countries, as well as in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and many other countries in the tropics.

Threats to mangrove habitats

However there are still threats to this important habitat. Among the many threats to mangroves, the main one would be related to land conversion. This would include anything from coastal development especially for tourism or aquaculture purposes, land reclamation or through dredging. Another easily avoidable threat is that of waste. This includes dumping, pesticide runoff, sewerage, animal and industrial waste from land and oil spills from either land or sea. In many countries we also see over-exploitation of mangrove resources including through logging for building, collection of firewood, over-fishing and crabbing and over harvesting of other natural products.

It is important that we consider the protection of mangroves as a whole of society responsibility. We need to:

Advocate and educate on the importance of mangrove habitats and their conservation;

Support activities that expand mangrove areas in Fiji and other Pacific island countries;

Support livelihood activities that utilise mangrove habitats sustainably; and

Support policy that prioritises mangrove conservation in coastal development.

We can support any of these activities.

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