Widespread destruction of mangroves along the coasts results in economic damages of $6 – 42 billion every year, says a report titled “The Importance of Mangroves: A Call to Action”, released by the United Nations Environment Programme on Monday.
The current rate of destruction of mangroves is three to five times greater than the average rates of forest loss. At the existing rate, South East Asia could lose 35 per cent of its mangrove cover of 2000 in the next 35 years.
"The escalating destruction and degradation of mangroves - driven by land conversion for aquaculture and agriculture, coastal development, and pollution - is occurring at an alarming rate, with over a quarter of the earth's original mangrove cover now lost,” said UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner. “This has potentially devastating effects on biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of some of the most marginalised coastal communities in developing countries where more than 90 per cent of the world's mangroves are found."
Research shows that mangroves play a key role in carbon sequestration – removing about 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare – over thousands of years. They also protect coastal communities from extreme weather events such as tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis.
The loss of mangroves contributes to nearly one-fifth of global emissions from deforestation. Climate change also affects their survival. The report indicates that the effects of climate change could result in a loss of a further 10 - 15 per cent of mangroves by year 2100.
The report recommends several measures to conserve and restore mangroves. These include creating a global mangrove fund, encouraging mangrove conservation through carbon credit markets, promoting economic incentives for their sustainable use and ensuring that mangrove protection finds space in wider Marine Spatial Planning and policy frameworks.
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