- © NASA. The Sundarbans is the largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world (Bangladesh and India).
Mangroves are rare, spectacular and prolific ecosystems on the boundary between land and sea. They ensure food security for local communities. They provide biomass, forest products and sustain fisheries. They contribute to the protection of coastlines. They help mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events.
This is why the protection of mangrove ecosystems is essential today. Their survival faces serious challenges —from the alarming rise of the sea level and biodiversity that is increasingly endangered. The earth and humanity simply cannot afford to lose these vital ecosystems.
UNESCO has always been on the frontline of promoting new and harmonious relations between humanity and nature, where the preservation of mangrove ecosystems carries special importance.
To this end, UNESCO is working across the board and with all partners on an open initiative on mangroves and sustainable development. UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves has 86 sites out of 669 that include areas of mangroves.
Many are in developing countries and Small Island Developing States – such as La Hotte Biosphere Reserve in Haiti and the island of Principe in Sao Tome and Principe, as well as the Can Gio Mangrove in Viet Nam. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes the Sundarbans, the largest unbroken mangrove system in the World, shared between Bangladesh and India and home to the iconic Royal Bengal Tiger. The UNESCO Global Geoparks Network also has mangrove sites, like the Langkawi Global Geopark of Malaysia.
On this first International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystems, UNESCO’s message is clear. Taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development means forging new sustainable pathways to development in harmony with the earth. This means preserving all mangrove ecosystems.
Did you know?
- Mangroves are extraordinary ecosystems, located at the interface of land and sea in tropical regions, which offer a considerable array of ecosystem goods and services.
- Although they are found in 123 nations and territories, mangrove forests are globally rare. They represent less than 1% of all tropical forests worldwide, and less than 0.4% of the total global forest estate.
- Mangroves are disappearing three to five times faster than overall global forest losses, with serious ecological and socio-economic impacts.
- Management and restoration of mangrove ecosystems is an achievable and cost effective way to help ensure food security for many coastal communities.
- These forested wetlands are rich in biodiversity. They provide a valuable nursery habitat for fish and crustaceans; a food source for monkeys, deer, birds, even kangaroos; and a source of nectar for honeybees. They support complex communities, where thousands of other species interact.
- Healthy mangrove ecosystems are vital for the wellbeing, food security, and protection of coastal communities worldwide.
- Mangroves can play an important role in reducing vulnerability to natural hazards and increasing resilience to climate change impacts.
- Mangroves act as a form of natural coastal defense: reducing erosion, attenuating waves (and tsunamis) and even reducing the height of storm surges.
- Mangrove soils are highly effective carbon sinks, sequestering vast amounts of carbon over millennia.
- If destroyed, degraded or lost these coastal ecosystems become sources of carbon dioxide. Much of this emitted carbon is thousands of years old and other processes in the ecosystem do not balance its rapid release into the oceans and atmosphere.
Video: The Mangrove Action Project – Mangrove Forest Restoration & Conservation