Although mangroves make up less than one percent of all tropical forests worldwide, their contribution to mitigation of climate change is huge. Unfortunately, however, they are facing the fastest ever rate of destruction.
Any further delay in corrective action to protect and conserve mangrove ecosystems would not only mean huge loss of livelihood of a large number of coastal communities in the developing world, but also make us more vulnerable to devastations caused by the increasing number of cyclones.
Mangrove- asource of livelihood in Bhitarkanika
( Pic-Ranjan Panda)
A just published report on mangroves by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) titled, “The important of mangroves to people: A call to Action” reinforces this point.
Several research studies have now conclusively established that mangroves act as significant carbon storage systems, sequestering vast amounts of carbon – about 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare – over thousands of years. With continuing deforestation, this coastal “blue carbon” is at risk of being released back into the atmosphere when mangroves are cut down and converted into shrimp ponds or replaced by hotels, ports or used as landfill, says this report.
More importantly, emissions from deforestation of the same mangroves that act as one of the best carbon sinks make up nearly one-fifth of all global emissions due to deforestation. In fact, mangroves continue to be lost at a rate 3-5 times faster than global deforestation rates. The report estimates economic damages on account of mangrove destruction at about US$ 6-42 billion annually.
Actually, the losses to the communities dependent on mangrove ecosystems are much more than anyone can estimate. Tropical mangroves around the world connect our land and its people with the sea, providing millions with food, clean water, raw materials and resilience against future climate change impact, including increasing storm intensity and sea level rise.
Together with coral reefs, seagrass meadows and intertidal mudflats and marshes, these complex interconnected ecosystems are home to a spectacular range of visiting and resident species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and fish, all of which help maintain the ecological functioning of mangroves. In turn, this rich mosaic of biodiversity supports people through fisheries, tourism and cultural heritage, the report points out in its introduction.