Ede-Wageningen, NL, 18 October, 2023: Answering the recent and rapidly growing interest in mangrove reforestation and afforestation the Global Mangrove Alliance and the Blue Carbon Initiative have launched the Best Practice Guidelines for Mangrove Restoration. The Guidelines aim to align governments, investors, and restoration practitioners around a shared understanding of how to effectively conserve and restore mangrove ecosystems in a science-based, fair, and equitable way.
Healthy mangroves are havens for biodiversity and are critical for climate action. They support the livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of millions of coastal inhabitants around the world, are critical for carbon storage, regulate water quality, and protect coasts. Yet over the last 50 years we have lost them at rates higher than any other forest. (2)(3)
The mangrove restoration guidelines take a holistic approach, accounting for ecological, social and financial factors, which can make or break a restoration project. It also includes a module related to blue carbon projects to ensure sustainable finance towards mangrove restoration.
Pieter van Eijk, Programme Head of Coasts and Deltas with Wetlands International, and co-author of the Guidelines said: ”We need to think before we plant and move away from mass monoculture mangrove planting towards inclusive ecological restoration approaches that involve local communities and build upon the latest scientific insights. Planting in many cases is not needed. Success happens when we create the right conditions for mangroves to grow back naturally, and only use planting to assist or enrich the natural regeneration process. ”
While there have been many successful restoration efforts, some regions still see failure rates of up to 80%. (4) This is primarily due to limited knowledge of best practices. Common issues include unrealistic goal setting, short project planning and stakeholder engagement time, and reliance on planting in unsuitable areas without also addressing hydrology, nutrient, and sedimentation requirements.
Dr. Jennifer Howard, Vice President of the Blue Carbon Program at Conservation International, co-author and editor of the Guidelines said: “Restoring mangroves is a potentially transformative nature-based solution to mitigate climate change and increase coastal resiliency. However, scaling and investments in ambitious mangrove restoration projects has been slow due to perceived risk and low success rates. The good news is, effective mangrove restoration approaches that are science-based and provide fair and equitable benefits have been around for years, however this capacity and knowledge is not broadly available. We hope to change that.”
Catherine Lovelock, Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, said:“We have synthesized the work of the many committed scientists that contributed to creating this consolidated Guidelines. Thanks to the mangrove restoration science community for sharing their wisdom! Mangrove restoration scientists have been generous with the lessons they have learned from restoring mangroves. This document brings together their collective work in one place. Anyone who wants to restore mangroves will find something useful in the Guidelines.”
Of the 1,100,000 hectares of mangroves that have been lost since 1996, around 818,300 ha of mangroves are considered to have high “restorable” potential, while other areas are considered less easy to restore and may be irretrievably lost to urbanization, erosion, or other causes. (4)
Areas where mangroves have been removed are vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme weather events, erosion and flooding, which threaten homes and livelihoods. Mangroves also provide refuge for birds, bats, tigers, manatees and many other endangered species, and are breeding grounds for ecologically important reef fish and commercially important food fish. There is an urgent need to restore these ecosystems while we still can.
Now more than ever before there is a large public and private interest in recovering these mangrove ecosystems and protecting existing ones. A rapidly growing ‘community of action’ made up of Governments, NGOs and businesses are joining the ‘Mangrove Breakthrough’ which aligns anyone interested in accelerating the action and investments needed for securing the future of mangroves worldwide. (5) The Guidelines underpin how to restore mangroves effectively and sustainably.
The Best Practice Guidelines for Mangrove Restoration is a joint product developed by the Global Mangrove Alliance and the Blue Carbon Initiative, and has been led by the University of Queensland, Conservation International, Wetlands International, Blue Marine Foundation and the International Blue Carbon Institute, along with dozens of mangrove scientists and user groups across the world.