In the last decade, there has been a growing interest in the role mangroves can play in reducing tropical storm, coastal erosion and flood risk for coastal communities. Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of hectares of mangroves have been planted. Unfortunately, the majority of planting efforts fail, as planted seedlings die. Even if seedlings survive, the benefits to community resilience are not always guaranteed.
MFF, the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group (MSG), Wetlands International (in collaboration with its Building with Nature Indonesia programme partners, including MFF) and the Mangrove Action Project say that a more appropriate mangrove restoration method is urgently needed to enhance coastal safety, fisheries, aquaculture and carbon sequestration. The experts compiled lessons learned in a discussion paper, in which they drew attention to the ‘Ecological Mangrove Restoration approach’ (Lewis 2014). This approach focuses on creating the right biophysical and socio-economic conditions for mangroves to grow back naturally, which results in the establishment of a sizeable, diverse, functional and self-sustaining mangrove forest that benefits both nature and people.
While planting can assist or enrich the natural regeneration process, the wrong species are often planted in the wrong places. Single-species planting, or monoculture, can lead to non-functional mangroves, with limited benefits and low resilience. Planting in the wrong places, such as in areas that were not previously covered by mangroves, can lead to damage to other ecosystems or block sediment and water flows.
Conservation organisations and mangrove experts encourage local NGOs and funding agencies to be more cautious when implementing restoration projects and recommend involving restoration ecologists and experts in flood risk management. Understanding the restoration site with a proper risk assessment and receiving advice on the best practices at the specific site, along with local expertise, is key to effective mangrove rehabilitation.
To avoid mangrove reconversion, the experts also recommend that economic activities be developed in a way that provides sustainable benefits from the restored goods and services, thereby strengthening the business case for restoration.
The discussion paper, ‘Mangrove Restoration: to plant or not to plant’, is available in Burmese, English, Indonesian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. Later in the year, Khmer, French, Filipino and Malay versions will be distributed. Click the links below to download.
Mangroves for the Future
Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries
Indonesian Ministry of Public Affairs and Housing
Wageningen University & Research
Mangrove Action Project (MAP)
IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group (MSG)
Cambodia: Participatory Management of Coastal Resources of Cambodia (PMCR)
Myanmar: ACTED, Mangrove Service Network (MSN)
Thailand: Mangrove Action Project (MAP)
Vietnam: Mangrove Ecosystem Research Center (MERC)
El Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarollo (PNUD)
Conservación Internacional Panamá
Autoridad de los Recursos Acuáticos de Panamá (ARAP)
Mangrove Restoration © IUCN