Mangroves Threatened by Rising Sea Levels

Urgent action is required to conserve mangroves in the Pacific, against the backdrop of climate change and rising sea levels, according to a new study. The study, Pacific Island Mangroves in a Changing Climate and Rising Seas, is a collaborative efforts by the Regional Seas Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Samoa, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council in Honolulu, and more than a dozen additional agencies and organizations from the Pacific Islands region.

The study assessed the vulnerability of the 16 Pacific Island countries and territories that have native mangroves, finds that overall as much as 13 per cent of the mangrove area may be lost. But some islands in the region could see over half of the mangroves gone by the end of the century, with the worst hit being American Samoa, Fiji, Tuvalu, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Roughly half the world’s mangrove area has been lost since 1900 as a result of clearances for developments like shrimp farms. About 35 per cent of this loss has occurred in the past two decades.

In common with other terrestrial and marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves provide an array of valuable goods and services upon which local people and industries depend. And mangroves offer a degree of protection against storms and tsunamis—a function that rises in importance as climate change threatens to become a full-blown reality.

United Nations Environment Programme, Pacific Island Mangroves in a Changing Climate and Rising Seas, New York, July 2006.
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