Mangrove swamps are the single most efficient form of forest when it comes to carbon sequestration. I’ve detailed exactly why in previous posts. They also stabilise coastlines, forming a buffer against storms and floods. They serve as nurseries to small fish. Like many environments in the ‘riparian zone’ between land and water, they are very biodiverse – home to all kinds of birds, crabs, turtles, rodents and otters. In some places you might even find dugong, an animal which is like a cross between an elephant and a dolphin.
Despite their usefulness, mangrove forests are threatened. They are cleared for development or for commercial seafood production. Mangrove wood is also prized for its resistance to rot and insect infestation, so it is used as a building material, or just for fuel. Dams upstream can raise the salinity of rivers beyond the tolerance of mangroves. Between all these factors, 35% of the world’s mangrove forests have already been destroyed.
There are global benefits to preserving mangrove forests. Conveniently, there are also local ones: reduced storm damage, and higher fish catches. That can help to motivate local communities to preserve or restore degraded forests.
That’s what has happened on the West coast of Madagascar. Local people noticed that the mangroves were being overharvested, and that presented a risk to their way of life. With the help of WWF Madagascar, local communities turned out in their hundreds to learn about mangrove conservation and plant new seedlings. It’s a nice example of doing restorative conservation work in partnership with communities, and a good excuse for this Madophile to post videos of Madagascar.
If you speak French, or Malagasy for that matter, here’s a little video showing the community planting. And if you don’t click over here instead for some lovely timelapse footage celebrating the biodiversity of Madagascar’s mangroves.