Fishermen in mangrove creek, Kenya

Credits: © University of Florence / Riccardo Innocenti

Traditional fishermen returning to sell their catches in a mangrove creek, Kenya. Mangroves, under threat from many sources, provide valuable economic benefits to local communities.

Mangroves, which are under threat in many parts of the world, have been traditionally looked upon as worthless mosquito-infested areas, but they have been recently re-evaluated. In fact, the principal ecological functions of mangroves are:

  • breeding, spawning, hatching and nursery grounds for various marine fauna;
  • also play a major role in shoreline stability by protecting shorelines from excessive erosion;
  • they are systems of both high organic production and nutrient traps. Mangroves reduce nutrient loads into the sea and thus encourage growth of seagrasses and corals;
  • increase species richness or biodiversity in estuarine areas.

Next to their ecological value, these forests provide numerous commercial products, generating much needed economic opportunities. A significant component of the economic potential of mangrove swamps is the use of their fishes, crustaceans and molluscs. Mangrove forests are one of the most productive and biodiverse wetlands on earth. Yet these unique coastal tropical forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world. Growing in the intertidal areas and estuary mouths between land and sea, mangroves provide critical habitat for a diverse marine and terrestial flora and fauna. Healthy mangrove forests are key to a healthy marine ecology, and their destruction in some places made the December 2004 tsunami more lethal.

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