Tuesday, July 25, 2017

To Plant or Not to Plant

Experts draw attention to a successful method of mangrove regeneration on International Mangrove Day, 26th July 2017
Today, on the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, conservation organisations and mangrove specialists worldwide highlight the multifunctional benefits of the practice of ‘natural regeneration’ of mangroves.  Compared to planting efforts, survival rates are considerably higher and it results in a more biodiverse, resilient and productive mangrove forest, enhancing community livelihoods and reducing disaster risk. 
During the last decade enormous interest has been raised in the role mangroves can play in reducing tropical storm, coastal erosion and flood risk for coastal communities. Across the world hundreds of thousands of hectares of mangroves have been actively planted. But the majority of planting efforts fail as planted seedlings die and even if seedlings survive, the ecological value of a monoculture and benefits of the planting efforts for increased community resilience are questionable.

Wetlands International, Mangrove Action Project, Mangroves for the Future and the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group (MSG) say that a more appropriate mangrove restoration is urgently needed worldwide to enhance coastal safety, fisheries, aquaculture and carbon sequestration. To support best practices, they pulled together lessons learnt in a discussion paper and raise attention for the ‘Ecological Mangrove Restoration approach’ (Lewis 2014). This approach focuses on creating the right biophysical and socio-economic conditions for mangroves to grow back naturally which results in the establishment of a sizeable, diverse, functional and self-sustaining mangrove forest that offers benefits both for nature and people.

The paper is available in English, Spanish, Khmer, Vietnamese, Burmese, Thai and Indonesian to assist parts of the world where mangroves have been lost or degraded, along with their valuable services. Later in the year also French, Filipino and Malaysian translations will be distributed. 

While planting can assist or enrich the natural regeneration process, frequently wrong species are planted in the wrong places. Mono-species planting can lead to non-functional mangroves, with limited benefits and low resilience. Planting in the wrong places, such as in areas that were not previously covered by mangroves can lead to damage to other ecosystems or can block sediment and water flows. 

The conservation organisations and mangrove experts encourages local NGOs and big funding agencies to be more cautious when implementing restoration projects and recommend involving restoration ecologists and experts in flood risk management. The importance of understanding the restoration site with a proper risk assessment and receiving advice on the best practices at the specific site, along with local experts, is key to effective mangrove rehabilitation.

They also recommend, to avoid mangrove reconversion, that economic activities are developed that provide sustainable benefits from the restored goods and services, thereby strengthening the business case for restoration. This means that local communities need to be empowered and authorities need to be involved from the onset of restoration plans. 

Download the paper ‘Mangrove Restoration: to plant or not to plant’, available in 7 languages.

For more information:

Wetlands International, Susanna Tol: susanna.tol@wetlands.org
Mangrove Action Project, Jim Enright: mapasia@mangrovactionproject.org 
Mangroves for the Future, Ann Moey: ann.moey@iucn.org

Contributing partners:

Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries 
Indonesian Ministry of Public Affairs and Housing
Wetlands International
Blue Forests
Wageningen University & Research
Mangrove Action Project (MAP)
Mangroves for the Future 
IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group (MSG)
Cambodia: Participatory Management of Coastal Resources of Cambodia (PMCR)
Myanmar:  ACTED, Mangrove Service Network (MSN)
Thailand: Mangrove Action Project (MAP)
Vietnam: Mangrove Ecosystem Research Center (MERC)
El Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarollo (PNUD) 
Conservación Internacional Panamá
Autoridad de los Recursos Acuáticos de Panamá (ARAP)

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