Tuesday was International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, or World Mangrove Day, and Sri Lanka’s prime minister celebrated by opening a museum dedicated to mangroves. But mangroves are important to the entire world, not just Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the BBC: Mangroves swiftly absorb carbon dioxide and inject oxygen into the atmosphere, maintaining an ecological balance vital for the environment. It is my belief that the mangrove restoration project will generate much needed awareness among key stakeholders such as the community, leisure sector personnel, tourists, and the general public.Mangroves are composed of over 20 different plant species that thrive in saltwater and silt environments. They were once plentiful and covered much of the world’s tropical coastline.
However, in the past 50 years, nearly half of all mangrove cover has been lost. This is a significant blow to these rare ecosystems, which play a dramatic role in ecological balance.
Among their various ecological functions, mangroves are home to a diverse range of species, from crabs to birds and insects. They also serve as a valuable carbon sink, as trees take in carbon dioxide and store it.
What’s more, mangroves play a significant role in stabilizing their surrounding landscapes by preventing wet earth from moving. Mangroves can also act as a weather break and protect inland villages from the worst effects of flooding.
Despite their importance, mangroves have been overlooked in many policy directives. Countries like Indonesia, which house large swathes of mangrove cover, have been subjected to land clearing and severe restrictions on the ecosystem’s growth.
Shrimp farming particularly threatens mangroves because the industry relies on the same shallow, salty water in which mangroves thrive.
Aquaculture continues to be a problem for local fishing communities that previously harvested fish sustainably in mangrove regions. With the growing shrimp farming industry, among other aquaculture industries that have boomed in the past 30 years, local communities find themselves cut off from their livelihood. The mangroves have been cut back — or cut down entirely in some regions.
But Sri Lanka has committed to action in maintaining its remaining mangrove cover.
The country’s government has reportedly spent about U.S. $3.4 million on surveying the mangrove cover — and it isn’t done yet. Officials aim to draft stronger legislation to help conserve mangroves and establish policy directives that will prioritize mangrove cover.
In addition to these initiatives, Sri Lanka’s mangrove museum will help to educate young people about the role that mangroves play in the nation’s economy and ecology. The museum will supplement the mangrove conservation lessons that are already part of the national curriculum, as well as the broader five-year plan on mangrove conservation.
This is an approach that international environmental groups hope other nations will mirror. Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), commented on the value of World Mangrove Day:
Mangroves are rare, spectacular and prolific ecosystems on the boundary between land and sea. They ensure food security for local communities. They provide biomass, forest products and sustain fisheries. They contribute to the protection of coastlines. They help mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events. This is why the protection of mangrove ecosystems is essential today. Their survival faces serious challenges – from the alarming rise of the sea level and biodiversity that is increasingly endangered. The earth and humanity simply cannot afford to lose these vital ecosystems.
World Mangrove Day is the result of a UNESCO proclamation officially adopted on November 6, 2015. The proclamation highlights the role that mangrove conservation must play in global commitments under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Measures to save mangroves could also be key to conserving some of the world’s most iconic and endangered species. The Sundarbans, a mangrove ecosystem spanning Bangladesh and India, is home to the Bengal tiger, for instance. It is, in fact, the only mangrove region inhabited by tigers — and for that reason, even more precious and deserving of protection. – World News Report via EIN News
(Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human rights, animal welfare and health care reform. He is a published author, poet and citizen journalist, and a scriptwriter for computer games, film and web serials.) Photo credit-Thinkstock.