Sunday, July 25, 2021

Our Friend, The Mangrove

From Knowable Magazine, July 22:

Many mangrove restorations fail. Is there a better way?
These carbon-hoarding, coastline-protecting forests are sponges for greenhouse gases. Doing plantings right and involving local communities are key to saving them.

If any single event was a watershed for conservation of the world's mangrove forests, it was the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. The day after Christmas that year, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake thundered along a fault line on the ocean floor with a force that sent waves — some a hundred feet high — surging toward the densely populated coasts encircling the Indian Ocean. The disaster took more than 225,000 lives.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, some scientists reported that settlements behind swampy, shoreline mangrove forests often suffered less damage, and fewer casualties, than areas where the forests had been cleared for aquaculture or coastal developments. Although the mangroves provided only modest protection against such a devastating tsunami, the ordeal was nevertheless a powerful reminder that mangroves can be vital buffers against storm surges, floods and the normal hazards of coastal life.

Many took the lesson to heart: Mangroves had to return.

In several affected countries, nonprofits and government agencies swiftly began planting mangrove seedlings; in Sri Lanka, plantings were made at more than 20 sites around the island’s rim. But when University of Ruhuna botanist Sunanda Kodikara visited those sites between 2012 and 2014, he was shocked to find mangroves regrowing on only about 20 percent of the area planted. Elsewhere, just a few saplings persevered, or none at all. “I saw so many dead plants,” Kodikara recalls. Especially disheartening, he says, was the fact that some $13 million had been spent on the efforts. 

Such results are particularly frustrating to experts, as the need for protecting and restoring the world’s “blue forests” is greater than ever. Mangroves are mighty sponges for climate-warming gases — which makes large companies increasingly eager to pay for mangrove conservation to offset their own emissions. Mangroves are also havens for biodiversity, and living dikes that help shield against storms and waves that are growing ever stronger in a warming climate. And yet, they remain one of the world’s most threatened tropical ecosystems; we’ve lost over 35 percent of the world’s total in two recent decades, largely due to clearing of mangroves for aquaculture, agriculture, urban development and timber....


 Perhaps it is time to get reacquainted with our friends, the halophytes

Rising Sea Levels? Get to Know the Halophyte Crops