Sri Lanka leads the world in Mangrove conservation

Sri Lanka leads the world in Mangrove conservation

Sri Lankan Prime Minister names mangrove conservation essential in the fight against climate change, promising to protect all of Sri Lanka’s mangrove forests.


Last Tuesday saw National Mangrove Day and the opening of the world’s first mangrove museum in Sri Lanka as part of a push to raise the profile of mangrove conservation around the world.


“Mangroves swiftly absorb carbon dioxide and inject oxygen into the atmosphere, maintaining an ecological balance vital for the environment,” the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said, also explaining that “it is my belief that the mangrove restoration project will generate much-needed awareness.”


Mangrove forests are one of the only habitats to continuously store carbon dioxide from the air in the soil, according to the leading US environmental charity The Nature Conservancy. But mangroves are being lost faster than almost any other forest type.


The museum, built in a collaboration between US-based conservation organisation Seacology and local NGO Sudeesa, is an educational keystone in Sri Lanka’s new mangrove restoration project that has already documented all 15,000 hectares of Sri Lankan mangrove forest, cultivated quarter of a million mangrove seedlings and issued new legislation to protect them.


While the conservation project cost a total of US $3.4 million in funding, Duane Silverstein, Seacology Executive Director, insists that the figure is tiny compared to the financial benefits provided by maintaining the mangrove forests.


“By offering training and funding to develop alternatives to cutting mangroves, the project is alleviating poverty as well as protecting mangroves. It’s a win-win situation,” said Silverstein.
well as protecting mangroves. It’s a win-win situation,” said Silverstein.


The economic gain of conserving the mangrove forests has being estimated at US $194, 000 per hectare in a paper published by Nature last year.


Mangrove forest floor

Mangroves take carbon from the air and store it in the soil. Credit: Ione Bingley


Mangrove forests provide nursery sites for many species of fish and protection from cyclones and tsunamis, minimising the damage caused to villages sheltered by them.


“If you are talking about values these carbon values are likely dwarfed by the other values that mangroves provide,” said Senior Marine Scientist for The Nature Conservancy Dr Mark Spalding. “100m of mangroves can reduce incoming wave energies by two thirds, and they generate tonnes of fish which are caught both among the mangroves and way offshore.”


A world conservation union (IUCN) report compared the death toll in two Sri Lankan villages hit by tsunami waves in 2004. There were two deaths in the settlement protected by a mangrove forest and 6000 in the one without.


“Mangroves really are the poster-child of nature’s value to people and Sri Lanka has shown great wisdom with this ruling. They will reap the benefits for generations to come!” Said Dr Spalding. “We are already seeing nascent carbon trading markets which are encouraging mangrove restoration, but I hope much more will follow.”


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