Mangrove forest conservation is a cost-effective and affordable long-term strategy to defend coastal communities against the impacts of climate change. Around the world BirdLife is working with local communities to protect and restore mangroves for wildlife and people. Three examples from Panama, Samoa and Palau are presented here.
The protection and restoration of mangrove forests provides numerous benefits. Mangroves act as natural sea defences—absorbing wave energy, limiting erosion and reducing the impact of storms and hurricanes. They also provide a nursery area for fish and shrimp, food and fuel resources for local communities and are an important habitat for coastal biodiversity.
The Upper Bay of Panamá is one of the most important areas for migratory shorebirds in the Americas. Panamá Audubon Society (BirdLife in Panama) has provided wetland management training to Local Conservation Groups in the area. Mangrove restoration, as part of an integrated coastal management plan, has contributed to local poverty alleviation by improving fish, molluscs and other mangrove forest resources. This strengthening of local capacities, together with network and advocacy training (e.g. to influence government into legislative reform that controls exploitation), provides a basic platform from which to start designing self-help sustainable development that will help maintain ecosystem services and reduce vulnerability to climate change.
With 74% of its people and infrastructure in low-lying coastal areas, Samoa is likely to be severely impacted by future sea level rise. In response, O le Si’osi’omaga Society Incorporated (BirdLife in Samoa), is working with the Matafaa indigenous village community to protect their coastal mangroves. This will help protect the islands agricultural land from cyclone and tsunami-related flooding and erosion, predicted to increase in frequency and intensity with climate change. The mangrove conservation project also helps the local people to enhance benefits from existing natural resources such as herbal medicine plants (the primary form of health care), fuel and fibre, fish, and associated biodiversity.
The biodiverse islands and atolls of Palau in the Pacific are also vulnerable to climate change impacts. Over the last three years, Palau Conservation Society (BirdLife in Palau) has co-ordinated an ecosystem approach, addressing coastal erosion on Babeldaob, Palau’s largest island and the location for three Important Bird Areas (Middle Ridge, Western Ridge, and Ngerutechei). By providing information on ecosystem changes, and assisting the formation of community alliances such as the Babeldaob Watershed Alliance, awareness has been raised of the importance of ecosystems and adaptation in land-use planning.
These examples illustrate how BirdLife is helping to mitigate coastal erosion and minimise the impacts of saltwater inundation on water quality, by working with local communities and governments to ensure that adequate forested coastal buffer zones are in place. Concurrently, these activities are also helping to conserve the rich coastal biodiversity of these areas.
Related Case Studies in other sections
BirdLife International (2009) BirdLife Partners are working with local communities to protect and restore mangrove ecosystems. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/283. Checked: 26/01/2015
|Key message: Healthy ecosystems can help the worlds most vulnerable adapt to climate change|