Sundarbans, Bangladesh and India. Satellite observation

Mangroves are rare but spectacular ecosystems that occupy the boundary between land and sea. They consist of trees or large shrubs, including ferns and palms, that normally grow in or adjacent to the intertidal zone. Mangroves have adapted to survive in this environment and grow in saline coastal sediment habitats. They are found in 123 tropical and sub-tropical nations of which two-thirds can be found in 12 countries. The largest areas of mangrove ecosystems are found on the wetter coastlines of South and Central America and West and Central Africa, and from northeast India through Southeast Asia to northern Australia. Globally, they cover only 152,000 square kilometres, equating to less than 1% of all tropic forests around the world, making them a rare habitat type.

© Wikimedia Commons/ Boricuaeddie
Mangrove ecosystem

The conservation of mangrove areas is of great importance. Since 1980 one-fifth of the world’s mangrove ecosystems have been lost according to the World Atlas of Mangroves. Mangroves are ecosystem engineers, exerting a direct influence and helping to shape their environment. They can function as rich stores of biomass and are highly productive, supporting complex communities and exporting nutrients to adjacent ecosystems. 

Mangroves offer a considerable array of goods and services to people, including forest products and fisheries, and they play a critical role in coastal protection. They are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and their economic values range from US$2,000 to US$9,000 per hectare per year. Unfortunately many societies have overlooked these benefits, including the indirect support they provide to offshore fishing.

Today, 91 out of the 701 biosphere reserves that currently form the World Network of Biosphere Reserves include mangrove ecosystems, representing 13% of the World Network.


World atlas of mangroves; UNESCO-sponsored programmes and publications
Spalding, Mark; Kainuma, Mami; Collins, Lorna (2010)

Securing the Future of Mangroves (pdf)
Policy Brief (2012)



Last updated: July 2018

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