EL SALVADORE – “Without the mangroves, we couldn’t live here,” says José Antonio Hernández. “We wouldn’t have any water.” He is standing on a rare dry patch of soil amid a mangrove forest on El Salvador’s eastern coast. While his green button-up shirt bears the logo of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MARN), Juan works as a volunteer on his daily patrols of the mangroves. José Horacio Soriano accompanies Hernández on the patrol. They both work as Natural Resource Guards for the Mangrove Association, a coalition of 80 communities that protects the mangroves of Usulután province. The Lempa river divides Usulután from the neighboring province of San Vicente. The communities at the river’s southern end where it empties into the Pacific Ocean are known as the Bajo Lempa – or Lower Lempa. Hernández explains that he arrived in the Bajo Lempa at the end of El Salvador’s Civil War. In the 1992 Peace Accords, the government committed to redistributing land to the guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and members of the National Guard and Army.
MAP established the Community Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) yahoo e-group to share information amongst mangrove restoration practitioners in the Bay of Bengal Region following a CBEMR workshop MAP held in AP, India in 2005. CBEMR puts the focus on hydrology and correcting it if it’s preventing natural regeneration from occurring. Using CBEMR means that planting seedlings often is not required and the result will be a more natural biodiverse mangrove forest. The e-group has proved to be an effective tool for information and experience sharing on mangrove restoration, so the group has been opened to all others interested in CBEMR. Now the group has more than 200 members including students, NGOs, academics, scientists and mangrove restoration practitioners from Asia, Africa, North America, Europe and Australia. The emphasis of the group is on sharing mangrove restoration information using the CBEMR methodology to improve the effectiveness of mangrove restoration projects, but other information on mangrove conservation is also being exchanged. To learn more about the CBEMR group and to request to join please go the CBEMR group’s home page
People have long depended on natural systems for our survival and development, nowhere more visible than in our history of extracting minerals and fuel products. However, we have also started to see the importance of healthy ecosystems for providing essential goods and services, especially as these stocks of natural capital disappear. In response, action is being taken to restore and protect ecosystems, including global efforts aimed at estimating the economic value of the Earth’s natural capital – in hard numbers. Knowing the economic worth of ecosystem services can help ensure that those who rely heavily on ecosystems – from governments to industries and businesses to all of us as citizens – see their value and can account for restoration and conservation in their planning and use. Mangrove ecosystems in particular provide a multitude of goods and services, including: provision of food and clean water (provisioning services), influence climate regulation, soil composition regulation and disaster risk reduction (regulating services), and recreational and spiritual space (cultural services). The natural capital of mangroves thus has immense worth not only in sustaining lives and livelihoods of millions of people along the world’s coasts, but also in real economic terms.
GLOBAL – Join the celebration of a great natural wonder on World Migratory Bird Day! Take action and celebrate, conserve and raise awareness of migratory birds on or around 10 May 2017 by organizing educational programmes, lectures, bird walks, visits to bird-watching sites, competitions, art exhibitions and other public events. For more than ten years now, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) has raised awareness about the need for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats, about the threats they face, their ecological importance, and about the need for international cooperation to conserve them. Every year people across the planet take action and organize public events such as bird festivals, education programmes, exhibitions and bird-watching excursions to celebrate WMBD. The main day for the international celebrations is 10 May, but activities can also be undertaken at any time of the year when the regional peak of migrations takes place.
March 9th, 2017 was another sweltering day in southern Thailand. The air was almost wet with humidity, the sun beat down from overhead, and the relentless heat hung around like a blanket. However, the midday temperature did not stop the seven villagers from Ban Thung Yor, Klong Thom, Krabi Province who were exploring the mangrove restoration site at Ban Nai Nang. This was the second stop on a two-day tour of three villages affiliated with Mangrove Action Project (MAP) and funded through Synchronicity Earth of the UK. The tour was set up to highlight the experiences of MAPs participants and share ideas of how to successfully restore their own mangrove area. Villagers here have worked for years to reestablish their mangrove area, and have divided it into two sections- one left to restore naturally, and another with the addition of the planning of Nypa plants that the villagers use for thatch roofs, cigarette rollers, food, and daily life. Villagers of Ban Thung Yor were invited to learn to make batik fabric prints and were taken on a tour of the mangrove area, which has grown a considerable amount since the last time it was visited. “Our biggest problem was hydrology of the site,” spoke Mr. Ekakarat Cheangyang, “once we got the hydrology fixed, the area grew back quite quickly, and is still growing.”
In 1991, 20 hectares of pristine and biodiverse mangroves were cleared in Tiwoho Village, part of Bunaken National Marine Park, as part of a nation-wide program of aquaculture development known as the Blue Revolution, which has resulted in the loss of over 1,000,000 hectares of mangroves nation-wide. The aquaculture venture operated only for a period of 6 months, and the land lay fallow for the next decade. Six attempts to plant mangroves took place over the intervening years, but none of these attempts succeeded, as a result of failure to restore a functional hydrology to the system, which is the limiting factor for successful mangrove rehabilitation. In 2004, the principles of Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation were applied to the site in a collaboration between villagers, local universities and NGOs, and international ecologists. The following pages bring to life this pivotal rehabilitation effort, the first of its kind in Indonesia where communities were enjoined to repair the hydrology of an abandoned shrimp pond complex to promote natural regeneration of mangroves. This pilot project has led to the successful rehabilitation of over 2000 hectares of mangroves in other parts of Indonesia, and serves as an example of collaboration and adaptive management that is changing the way Indonesian practitioners address mangrove restoration.
We may have had the solution to carbon sequestration under our noses all along – but have we recognised it too late? Mangrove forests cover only a small percentage of the planet in comparison to other forest types – roughly 1.9% of coastline in the world – but they contain the largest source of carbon sequestration per hectare of land and are a major player in the carbon cycle of the oceans. This means they have high economic value as “blue carbon” – carbon captured in oceans and coastal ecosystems – but around the world they have often been destroyed in the course of coastal development, agricultural and mining activities. Increasingly, however, they are being acknowledged as formidable carbon sinks. But has this acknowledgement come too late? Does the ongoing loss mean we’ve squandered our best last chance to put the brake on global warming? Carbon is stored as biomass in the sediment captured through the growth of mangroves. The carbon produced by its decomposing roots alone is a major contributor to this complex sink. The removal of mangroves adds 10% to the total carbon lost from global tropical deforestation through greenhouse gas emissions.
The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists most flora and fauna into seven categories ranging from “Least Concern” to “Extinct”. These categories are based on the current population of the species, the population trend (whether it is increasing or decreasing and how rapidly) and the threats faced by those species. Hunting, habitat loss/degradation and climate change are the three biggest threats to the natural world and these problems are increasing the number of endangered species rapidly. Some of the species associated with Mangroves range from “Vulnerable” to “Critically Endangered”. The list covers fauna that rely on mangroves for either all or part of their lives as well as flora that are part of the Mangroves themselves. Many of these species are closely associated with each other and interlinking ecosystems, meaning the loss of one species can have devastating effects on another. The loss of flora and fauna species and biodiversity is yet another reason why protecting mangrove habitat is so important.
The Bay of Bengal’s basin contains some of the most populous regions of the earth. No less than a quarter of the world’s population is concentrated in the eight countries that border the bay. Approximately 200 million people live along the Bay of Bengal’s coasts and of these a major proportion are partially or wholly dependent on its fisheries. For the majority of those who depend on it, the Bay of Bengal can provide no more than a meagre living: 61% of India’s fisherfolk already live below the poverty line. Yet the numbers dependent on fisheries are only likely to grow in years to come, partly because of climate change. In southern India drought and water scarcity have already induced tens of thousands of farmers to join the fishing fleet. Rising sea levels are also likely to drive many displaced people into the fishing industry.
Plans for a huge power plant situated near the world’s largest mangrove forest in Bangladesh has incited outrage from many Bangladeshi conservationists and citizens. Recently, those in other countries rose up to show their criticism of the project, with a Global Protest Day stirring protests around the world. Environmental NGO representatives estimate thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday, January 7, to show their opposition to the Rampal power plant and their support of the Sundarbans mangrove. The Sundarbans lies along the northern shore of the Bay of Bengal, straddling the border between India and Bangladesh. Encompassing more than 10,000 square kilometers (3,860 square miles), the mangrove is the world’s largest and provides habitat for around 700 animal and 340 plant species. Endangered Bengal tigers roam its forests, as do huge, cow-like animals called gaurs, which are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Its waters are home to the only two remaining species of freshwater dolphins in Asia: the threatened Irrawaddy river dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) and the endangered Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica). Because of its ecological importance, the Sundarbans is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site; it’s also a Ramsar bird conservation area.