Photo credit: Mangrove forest in Thailand. Mangrove Action Project
By Leo Thom, creative director, Mangrove Action Project and Dominic Wodehouse, CBEMR consultant, Mangrove Action Project
Coastal communities are intrinsically connected to the sea. Their lives depend on it. A key to happiness and life in tropical regions is a healthy mangrove forest.
We are now recognizing that a world without the rainforests by the sea, wouldn’t just mean a dismal scenario for coastal communities, but would ultimately affect us all, and our planet.
With the ability to store vast amounts of carbon, up to 5 times more than other forests, mangrove forests are key to tackling global heating. Not only do they support a rich biodiversity, but they underpin the livelihoods of an estimated 210 million coastal people, whilst also replenishing the seas by acting as critical breeding grounds and nurseries for many marine species. While they cover only 0.1% of the earth’s land surface, they are also one of the most powerful solutions to many of the problems our planet is currently facing.
Despite all of this, they are still under threat worldwide and continue to decline.
The film takes us to the Andaman Coast in southern Thailand to illustrate the importance of mangrove forests to coastal communities.
Much like the rest of Thailand, huge areas of mangroves were cut down during the 1980s and 1990s to make way for shrimp farms. And as mangrove destruction continues globally at nearly 1% annually, bigger attempts are being made to restore these carbon-rich forests. Unfortunately the complexity and dynamic nature of mangrove forests make them extremely difficult to restore.
While the traditional, more common method of mangrove restoration is hand-planting, they often end in failure because they do not address the underlying reasons for the lack of current mangrove growth in an area. Go back a year or two after the initial planting, and you may well find that the vast majority of seedlings have perished, due to the original underlying ecological issues surrounding a degraded site not having been addressed in the first place.
The Mangrove Action Project has been demonstrating a unique approach to restoring mangrove forests together with local communities. The Community-based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) Method supports a holistic, science-based approach that encourages practitioners to mitigate mangrove stressors and facilitate natural mangrove regeneration. This is achieved by working with the local communities to understand all social and technical challenges affecting the restoration site, including site hydrology, soil elevation relative to sea level, pressures on the mangroves and why a site is not naturally regenerating.
CBEMR avoids the costs and necessity of building a nursery and planting, as natural regeneration encourages all the species in the locality to find appropriate sites. The result is higher survival and success rates, a higher variety of flora species (which would then encourage a greater variety of fauna), better forest resilience. Working with local communities, NGOs, and governments to create a sustainable network results in less pressure on existing mangrove forests by promoting alternative income livelihoods and increases regional mangrove knowledge for the long-term health of mangrove forests.
CBEMR Program is supported by Synchronicity Earth, LUSH Foundation, and Global Greengrant Fund
Learn about the Mangroves Matter campaign here.