Mangroves are salt-tolerant evergreen forests found along sheltered coastlines, shallow-water lagoons, estuaries, rivers or deltas in 124 tropical and subtropical countries and areas. They stand out among the coastal wetlands of international importance, and are vital for sustaining local communities in developing countries like ours.

Not only do they provide nursery habitat for a range of marine species, their roots and branches also serve as shelter for birds, tigers, deer, crocodiles, crocodiles, and bees. For that reason, many coastal communities derive their livelihood from mangrove resources.

The increasing occurrence of super typhoons has emphasized the vital role mangrove forests play as natural defence systems against storm surges, tsunamis, and shoreline erosion. Another feature unknown to many is mangroves’ role in decreasing the effects of global warming. In fact, their ability absorb and store large quantities of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is considered to be greater than that of tropical forests.

With the expansive services that mangroves provide, it’s a wonder why they seem to be the most undervalued ecosystems. BFAR says that mangrove area has dropped from 500,000 in 1914 to about 117,000 hectares. Of the remaining 117,000 hectares, 95 percent represents secondary growth and only five percent constitutes old or primary mangroves mostly found in Palawan.

Despite heavy funds for massive rehabilitation of mangrove forests over the last two decades, the long-term survival rates of mangroves are generally low at 10–20%. Poor survival can be mainly traced to two factors: inappropriate species and site selection.

Worse, the remaining mangrove forests continue to be threatened by land use conversion, pollution, and harvesting for timber and fuel.

Greenpeace is demanding the present administration to immediately act against marine ecosystem degradation by implementing a roadmap that ensures the protection, rehabilitation, and conservation of Philippine seas, and allows the recovery of the Philippine fish stocks and marine habitats.

This National Oceans Month, learn more about the worsening crisis in the Philippine seas by downloading our Oceans in the Balance Report.

 

Ephraim is Regional Oceans Research Coordinator at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.