Deforestation of mangrove forests is declining, but new conservation measures are still needed

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Globally, mangroves — once destroyed for agriculture and development — have seen a sharp decline in deforestation.

A new report from the Global Mangrove Alliance offers a plan to end mangrove loss completely. It lays out the steps clearly: stop new deforestation, restore half of all recent losses, and double the amount of officially protected mangroves.

Between 2010 and 2020, the annual rate of mangrove deforestation fell to less than a fifth of what it was between 1996 and 2010, Caitlin Cooper wrote in Mongabay. Currently, more than 42 percent of the world’s mangroves are considered protected, according to UNESCO figures, a 17 percent increase since 2012.

Once underestimated, mangroves have a moment. Efforts to preserve these environmental heroes are gaining momentum: at the COP27-UN climate talks that recently drew to a close in Egypt, the Global Mangrove Alliance, co-founded by Conservation International, launched a new initiative to restore and protect 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of mangroves worldwide by 2030. The initiative, known as the Mangrove breakthroughseeks to mobilize public, philanthropic and private funds for mangrove conservation through a $4 billion investment.

But when it comes to mangrove forest conservation, one size doesn’t fit all, the report said. Restoring lost mangroves requires a plan tailored to each ecosystem and the particular threats it faces. Some degraded areas, such as those opened up for agriculture or aquaculture, are too remote to be restored at all, the report says.

While restoring a terrestrial forest generally involves replanting felled trees, mangrove forests are more dynamic. Restoring them can prove difficult – not only does it require replanting, but restoring tidal conditions by keeping water flowing in channels that bring nutrients and keep salinity in check.

Fortunately, projects that take tidal conditions into account have proven successful for natural mangrove growth. One example is the Puntarenas estuary on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where community members have dug or rehabilitated over 5,000 meters (3 miles) of canals to restore water flow to the mangrove forest.

The Conservation International-supported project is the largest mangrove restoration project in Costa Rica—and home to seven species of mangroves across nearly 3,400 hectares (8,300 acres).

Read the full story from Mongabay here.

Emma Cummings-Krueger is the Media Relations Editor at Conservation International. Do you want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Also, please consider supporting our critical work.

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