© Shutterstock.com. Traditional fish farm in a mangrove ecosystem in Thailand.

International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem

Coastal mangroves are among the most threatened ecosystems on earth. Current estimates indicate that up to 67% of mangroves have been lost to date, and nearly all unprotected mangroves could perish over the next 100 years.

The stakes are high, because mangrove ecosystems provide benefits and services that are essential for life. From advancing food security, sustaining fisheries and forest products and offering protection from storms, tsunamis and sea level rise to preventing shoreline erosion, regulating coastal water quality and providing habitats for endangered marine species — the list is long on the importance of mangrove ecosystems. This includes the unique role that they play in sequestering and storing significant amounts of coastal blue carbon from the atmosphere and ocean, crucial for mitigating climate change.

UNESCO is drawing on all of its strengths — through its Man and the Biosphere Programme, its International Hydrological Programme, its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems Programme — to protect mangrove ecosystems. This action reaches across the world, from the Bosque de Paz Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador and Peru and the Delta de Saloum Biosphere Reserve in Senegal to the Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark in Malaysia.

© NASA. The Sundarbans is the largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world (Bangladesh and India).

UNESCO is engaged deeply in supporting the conservation of mangroves, while advancing the sustainable development of local communities who interact closely with them and depend on their goods and services. UNESCO is also leading an active role in the Blue Carbon Initiative to mitigate climate change through the conservation, protection, restoration and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems, focusing on mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses.

We must do far more, and this calls for stronger science. To this end, UNESCO is working to broaden the capacities of States and reinforce their scientific knowledge, especially in countries that are highly dependent on these ecosystems in Africa and Small Islands Development States, always working with local communities, always drawing on indigenous knowledge.

This International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem is the moment for everyone to redouble their commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. UNESCO’s message today is clear — we must reverse the trend of degradation and protect the mangroves that are so essential to the health of the planet.

A precious resource for local communities

The proclamation of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, which was adopted on 6 November 2015 by the General Conference of UNESCO, underlined the importance of mangrove ecosystems as “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem, providing by virtue of their existence, biomass and productivity substantial benefits to human beings, providing forestry, fishery goods and services as well as contributing to the protection of the coastline and being particularly relevant in terms of mitigation of the effects of climate change and food security for local communities.”

Initiatives

Blue Carbon Initiative

The International Blue Carbon Initiative is a coordinated, global programme focused on mitigating climate change through the conservation and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems.

UNESCO Designated Sites

The inclusion of mangroves in Biosphere Reserves, World Heritage sites and UNESCO Global Geoparks contributes to improving the knowledge, management and conservation of mangrove ecosystems throughout the world.

Open initiative on mangroves and sustainable development

This regional initiative, implemented in Latin America and the Caribbean, contributes to the Regional Action Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Mangroves in the South-east Pacific (pdf).

El Manglar from Plan de Acción - CPPS on Vimeo.

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.