Our Communications and Project Manager, Laura, recently spent a week in Martinique assessing the health and biodiversity of mangroves across the island. Along with team members from the University of Portsmouth, Laura found everything from thriving and healthy forests to storm impacted and plastic choked mangroves.

Mangroves are found on most of the coastline around Martinique and are predominantly estuarine, but they are also found in association with lagoons, in coastal fringe areas, in basins, and around salt ponds. The mangroves offer coastal protection against the effects of waves, wind, and water currents, they reduce coastal erosion, and they provide habitat for a huge array of wildlife, including many commercially important fish species.

The local forests are often cut for timber and charcoal, and their bark is used to extract tannin. They also support the harvesting of oysters, crabs, shrimp and fish. The major reasons for mangrove loss are the reclamation of large areas for agricultural use, discharge of industrial effluents, and residential development.

“Many of the mangroves are in great condition, with healthy trees and thriving wildlife” says Laura “We saw lots of bird, crab and mollusk species, which are good signs of a healthy forest, but sadly, some areas of mangrove have been lost, particularly those near to the marinas and coastal developments”

“A few mangroves were damaged by storms, especially due to the hurricanes that have passed through the Caribbean over the last few years” Laura adds “The dumping of rubbish by locals, illegal landfills, and improper wastewater disposal by private companies has also caused some areas to be severely polluted with plastic and household waste.”

By collecting data on forest structure, tree species and wildlife, the team will be able to tell the health of the mangroves, see what damage may have been done to the forests and also determine how much carbon the trees can sequester – a vital function in the fight against climate change. The data from this research will help with the protection and restoration of these forests and will lead to engagement with local communities to educate on the importance of mangroves to Martinique coastlines.