As the temperatures rise globally due to increasing CO2 gas in the atmosphere, our planet has become more prone to extreme weather events such as floods, storms, drought, hurricanes and cyclones, deadly heatwaves and wildfires! The sea-level rise has put much of the coastal areas around the world at a greater risk. To adapt and prepare ourselves we would need a multi-faceted approach to tackle and stabilise climate change. One of the approaches which the science community has been working on is the restoration of our lost mangrove forests worldwide.
Mangroves are tropical trees with tangled roots above the ground which survive in coastal, salty brackish water with low oxygen levels and can withstand ebb and flow of daily tides. Lining the shores, the mangroves are vital for the people in coastal regions as they provide protection from the floods, erosion, hurricane winds, storms and tsunamis. Mangroves are known to sequester as much as 4 times the carbon which terrestrial rainforests do. They also provide a conducive breeding ground for several fish, molluscs and crustaceans which gives a means of livelihood to its fishermen. These ecosystems are one of those most productive ecosystems when it comes to economic benefits. Unfortunately, we have lost almost half of our mangroves today. Indonesia has the largest coverage of mangroves forests. However, Java has lost more than 70 per cent of its total cover! With climate change to become only worse in future, the incidents of flooding, coastal storms will only become more devastating. Moreover, the growing greenhouse gas emissions have been heating the earth and we need a mechanism to capture this carbon from the atmosphere. The restoration of these forests could be crucial in our fight against climate change.
Scientists have been working on mapping mangroves coverage all over the world. These maps will reveal the areas where the mangroves previously existed and have been lost but the present conditions are still suitable to restore the mangroves with improved efforts. Restoring these mangroves will not just add economic value but it will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who live near coastal regions and are more susceptible to floods and storms surges. These mangroves can attenuate the energy of waves by 60 to 65 per cent, hence reducing the intensity of sea storms on coastal regions. Only restoring half of the identified restorable mangroves, we can sequester significant carbon amount which will help in reducing net co2 emission in the atmosphere. Using these maps, scientists can even analyse the social and economic benefits which the restoration of each mangrove area would bring to its people. We need local governments to take actions in collaboration with the stakeholders to prioritise the rehabilitation of the lost mangroves forest. Accessing these maps, policy-makers and coastal planners can protect communities and infrastructure of the coastal areas. Increasing the adaptive capacity by the restoration of these mangroves will boost the resilience of its population too and will make our planet ready to fight the future climate associated disasters.