Modern Mangrove Forest Replanting Efforts
by Nick Hammond on Dec 29, 2021
Mangrove forests are incredibly important coastal ecosystems that provide numerous benefits to both nature and human communities. However, mangrove forests have been declining around the world due to deforestation and climate change. Thankfully, there are now concerted efforts by governments, non-profits, and local communities to replant and restore mangrove forests using modern techniques.
Why Mangrove Forests Matter
Mangrove forests play several critical roles that make their conservation a priority. Some of the key benefits that mangrove forests provide include:
- Protecting coastal areas from erosion and storm surges. The dense root systems stabilize sediment and dissipate wave energy. This protects inland areas from flooding and damage during hurricanes and tsunamis.
- Providing breeding and nursing grounds for commercially important fish and shellfish species. Over 100 species rely on mangrove habitat for spawning and juvenile development. This drives local fisheries production.
- Absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The anaerobic soils underneath mangrove forests are incredibly carbon-rich and store billions of tons of carbon dioxide. This makes mangroves important carbon sinks.
- Filtering pollutants and preventing nutrients from land runoff getting into waterways and oceans. The intricate root systems retain sediments and absorb excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.
- Providing essential habitat for numerous animal species like birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Mangrove forests have incredibly high biodiversity.
Causes of Mangrove Loss
Mangrove forests have declined in coverage by over 50% in some regions of the world. Some of the major factors that have contributed to mangrove deforestation include:
- Logging for timber and fuelwood. Mangroves trees are cut down for lumber, firewood, and to produce charcoal. Often this is done by impoverished coastal communities who rely on mangroves for these resources.
- Clearing for coastal development. Draining and removing mangroves to make way for urban expansion, aquaculture, rice paddies, and tourism infrastructure removes habitat.
- Pollution from land runoff. Excess agricultural nutrients and petrochemicals damage the sensitive ecological balance of mangrove ecosystems.
- Rising sea levels. Climate change is inundating coastal zones and higher water prevents mangrove propagules from taking root in new areas.
Mangrove loss is widespread globally but countries like India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Brazil have been heavily impacted. Further loss of mangroves will increase coastal vulnerability and carbon emissions.
Modern Replanting Techniques
There are several methods being used to replant and restore cleared or damaged mangrove forests. Some of the most promising modern techniques include:
- Propagating and planting mangrove seedlings grown in nurseries. This allows for genetic diversity as propagules are collected across broad areas. The seedlings have higher survival rates when planted.
- Direct seeding of mangrove seeds and propagules collected from natural forests. While this has lower costs, it also has higher failure rates from being washed away or eaten.
- Use of eco-engineering techniques like building tidal creeks and lagoons with excavators. This recreates the hydrology needed for mangroves to spread naturally.
- Constructing permeable dams and breakwaters offshore. These structures reduce wave energy and allow sediment to build up. This creates suitable conditions for mangroves to colonize naturally.
- Deploying coconut-fiber bio-logs along shorelines to facilitate sediment capture and mangrove growth. The natural fiber decays over 2-3 years.
There is also now widespread use of drones and remote sensing to map out replanting sites, monitor the health and growth of replanted mangroves, and track changes in forest extent over time. Volunteer community groups often lead local replanting efforts. New technologies help maximize survival rates and accelerate the timelines for restored forests to mature.
Results and Benefits
Applying these modern techniques has successfully expanded the area covered by mangrove forests in many regions across Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Some examples include:
- Over 300 acres have been replanted in Senegal's Saloum Delta since large-scale efforts began in 2015. Survival rates have exceeded 80%.
- Around 140 acres of mangroves were replanted in Cancún, Mexico in 2020 to protect resort areas from storm surges.
- In Gazi Bay, Kenya mangrove cover tripled from around 300 acres in 1990 to over 860 acres in 2010 through restoration efforts.
- Indonesia has set a goal to replant 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024 across 25 provinces.
The benefits from replanted mangrove forests include restored biodiversity, enhanced coastal protection, and increased carbon sequestration. Local communities also benefit from replanting through improved fisheries. Continued research and expanded financing for restoration efforts will hopefully reverse the historic decline in mangrove forests across the globe. Their unique value for both nature and people is clear.
When you purchase from MANG you join a movement of people who are banded together to protect, preserve and restore our ecosystems. The future depends upon stewards like you stepping up to the cause to protect our Earth today.