The Earth has lost a third of its mangroves

The land is rapidly losing a third of its mangroves, what are the consequences?

ivan rodriguez gelfenstein

R. Gelfenstein - Mangroves are a natural first line of defense against harmful marine phenomena and, in addition, they are important carbon sinks, but they are in decline: the planet has lost a third of what it was.

The 2021 analysis by the international alliance of environmental organizations Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA) shows that these coastal marine ecosystems – covering an area of approximately 140,000 square kilometers km2 in tropical and subtropical zones – protect against erosion, waves and sea level rise. . and reduce the risk of flooding.

GMA's analysis identified mangrove losses of 10.8% – more than 15,000 km2 – between 1996 and 2016 alone and concluded that 60% of these losses – mainly in their most common habitats: Southeast Asia, Central America and the Caribbean – were due to human impact. coastal development, aquaculture and deforestation.

According to GMA calculations, they prevent material damage worth more than 64,000 million euros per year to about 15 million people.

In addition, they are able to capture high levels of carbon, to the point that "one hectare of mangroves fixes a hundred times more carbon than another hectare of tropical forest," explains Ricardo Aguilar, director of navigation at Oceana Europe.

Another advantage is that its roots serve as breeding habitat for mollusks, fish and crustaceans, on which about a third of artisanal fishing depends for its existence.

Octavio Aburto, professor-researcher in marine ecosystems at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego (USA) certifies that "many of these species would not survive without mangroves".

The main cause of direct losses, at 47%, is the growth of fish and shrimp aquaculture, while coal and timber mining, logging and palm plantations account for another 12%.

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