‘Devastating’ Effects from Ongoing Destruction of Mangrove Forests

Human Wrongs Watch

The world is losing its mangroves at a faster rate than global deforestation, the United Nations on 29 September 2014 revealed, adding that the destruction of the coastal habitats was costing billions in economic damages and impacting millions of lives.

Mangroves are cut down in Hera, Timor-Leste, 16 km from capital Dili, where frequent trash dumping threatens the area’s natural plant and wildlife. UN Photo/Martine Perret

In a new report launched today at the 16th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, held in Athens, Greece, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that the deforestation of the planet’s mangroves was exceeding average global forest loss by a rate of three to five times, resulting in economic damages of up to $42 billion annually and exposing ecosystems and coastal habitats to an increased risk of devastation from climate change.*

Alarming Rate of Destruction, Degradation

“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 UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“This has potentially devastating effects on biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of some of the most marginalized coastal communities in developing countries, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s mangroves are found,” he added.

The Executive Director noted that mangroves – which are found in 123 countries around the world – provide ecosystem services worth up to $57,000 per hectare per year, storing carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and providing the over 100 million people who live in their vicinity with a variety of goods and services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water and protection against erosion and extreme weather events.

Steiner stressed that their continued destruction “makes neither ecological nor economic sense.”

In addition to the economic problems posed by mangrove deforestation, the report, entitled The Importance of Mangroves: A Call to Action, also cautions that a continued reduction in the surface area of mangrove forests would inevitably expose coastal environments to the harmful effects of climate change.

One of the Most Threatened Ecosystems on the Planet

In the Caribbean, for instance, mangrove-lined “hurricane holes” have functioned for centuries as safe-havens for boaters needing to ride out storms. Meanwhile, the complex network of mangrove roots can help reduce wave energy, limit erosion and form a critical barrier to the dangers posed by the strengthening tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis which have been assailing coastal communities in recent years due to climate change.

In order to safeguard what UNEP calls “one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet,” the report outlines a number of financial mechanisms and incentives designed to stimulate conservation, including the creation of a Global Mangrove Fund, encouraging mangrove conservation and restoration through carbon credit markets, and promoting economic incentives as a source of local income from mangrove protection, sustainable use, and restoration activities.

Mr. Steiner admitted that it was important to present the survival of mangroves in real terms, underlining the economic impact their destruction would have on the local and global communities and pushing for greater international concern for their overall preservation.

“By quantifying in economic terms the value of the ecosystem services provided by mangroves as well as the critical role they play in global climate regulation, the report aims to encourage policymakers to use the tools and guidelines outlined to better ensure the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves.” (*Source: UN Release).

Governments, Corporations Pledge at UN Summit to Eliminate Deforestation by 2030?

On 23 September 2014, dozens of Governments, businesses, civil society and indigenous peoples participating in the United Nations Climate Summit in New York pledged to halve deforestation by 2020 and to end within the following decade.**

“Forests are not only a critical part of the climate solution – they hold multiple benefits for all members of society,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an announcement about the initiative.

The New York Declaration on Forests, a non-legally binding political agreement, calls for the restoration of more than 350 million hectares of forests and croplands, an area greater than the size of India.

Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change. Trees, which store carbon, release it when they are burned during slash-and-burn land clearing of forests, for example.

If it works as expected, the initiative would avoid between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year by 2030. That is equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by the one billion cars that are currently on the world’s roads.

“The New York Declaration aims to reduce more climate pollution each year than the United States emits annually,” Ban noted.

In support of the Declaration, 20 global food companies, most recently Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme, announced their pledges to deforestation-free sourcing policies of palm oil.

The world’s largest palm oil companies – Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill – also committed to work together to implement and join the Indonesian Business Council in asking incoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo to support their efforts through legislation and policies.

Taken together, the share of palm oil under zero deforestation commitments has grown from 0 to about 60 per cent in the last year, with the potential to reduce up to 450 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2020. That is the equivalent of 2 billion tonnes in the period through 2020.

Among other announcements, 26 governors from Peru and Liberia presented new forest policies and pledged to cut deforestation by 80 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Guatemala, Uganda and several other countries are set to make national pledges to restore more than 30 million hectares of degraded lands.

Also today, the Consumer Goods Forum, a coalition of 400 companies, called on Governments to pass a legally binding climate deal in Paris in 2015 that includes REDD+, including large-scale payments to countries that reduce deforestation.

More than 120 Heads of States and Government, business, finance and civil society representatives are today expected to announce commitments that will reduce emissions, enhance resistance to climate change and mobilize financing for climate action. They are taking part in Ban’s one-day Climate Summit at UN Headquarters. (**Source: UN Release).

Read also:

Forests Provide Jobs, Energy, Nutritious Foods and Ecosystem Services – Do Not Kill Them!

Forests Can Play a Crucial Role in Improving Global Food Security, Nutrition

Forests, a Matter of Life or Death for 1.6 Billion People!

1.6 Billion People Depend on Forests, But…

“As Long as There Is One of Us Standing, There Will Be a Fight to Protect the Forests”

Have Destroyed the Amazon? No Problem, Forests Will Pay the Bill

‘How KFC Is Junking the Jungle’

God, What a Future!

‘Governments Spend $1.4 Billion Per Day to Destabilize Climate’

Politicians Promote Fossil Fuels with Half a Trillion Dollars a Year

Save The Planet? Just Eat Cars, Drink Fuel!

Big Business Suffocating Our Lungs

All the Benefits of Amazon Plants and Foods in a UN Book

Eighty Per Cent of World’s Forests Degraded, Destroyed

2014 Human Wrongs Watch


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