The mangrove forests on the littoral zones of tropical coastlines form one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on our planet. They play a huge role in stabilizing the global climate on account of their enormous carbon dioxide storage potential. In addition, for the coastal population in the countries of Southern Asia these forests are of essential importance: they protect the coastal areas from tropical hurricanes that come in from the Indian Ocean, are the nursery for countless forms of sea-life and ensure the livelihood of the people who work in fisheries close to the coast.
The significance of mangrove forests for the poorer population groups living along coastlines is impossible to overestimate. Because of the destruction of the mangrove forests, the fishermen's fishing nets are becoming emptier and emptier. At the same time, the natural protection of the coasts is disappearing. As a countermeasure, we are initially planting mangrove seedlings in the ravaged areas and then counting on natural regeneration. At the same time, we have to protect the mangroves over the long term. But this effort can succeed only if we closely involve the local population in these measures, raise public awareness of the problem, and cooperatively develop alternatives to deforestation.
Daimler has supported the Global Nature Fund’s project work to restore mangrove forests in southern Asia since 2014. The new project on mangrove protection and adaptation to global climate change aims at placing the previous protection efforts on a broader basis by including other areas, for example in the Maldives and in Bangladesh, as well as strengthening the exchange between partners involved in mangrove protection. To this end, the new partners will be specifically trained in techniques of community-based ecological mangrove restoration and together with the local population will plant new nurseries. Closely involving the local population in replanting the mangrove forests has proven to be a particularly effective approach. In this way, and with the support of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz India Private Limited, 165 hectares of land has already been restored with more than 200,000 mangrove saplings in the past few years. In addition, measures to improve living standards and ways of making a living (e.g. planting vegetable gardens or building a weaving plant in Sri Lanka) have already helped more than 1,400 families.
About 40 percent of the world’s mangroves are located in Asia, primarily in underdeveloped regions with a weak economy. The world’s mangrove forests are estimated to cover a total of fifteen million hectares. More than 100 million people live within a ten-kilometer-wide belt along the mangrove areas.
In their totality, mangroves serve as an enormous global carbon sink. A healthy stock of trees in a mangrove forest can store far more carbon than a tropical rainforest — up to 1,000 tons per hectare. A large part of this is stored in the ground across the extensive network of roots. Ever since the 1980s, the total area covered by mangrove forests worldwide has decreased by about 25 percent — that corresponds to about 3.75 million hectares. As a result, the mangrove areas are one of the world’s most highly endangered ecosystems. They are disappearing three to five times faster than coral reefs or tropical rainforests.
More than half of the global loss of mangrove forests is due to the current expansion of aquacultures. The uncontrolled expansion of shrimp farming alone is responsible for 38 percent of the decrease (Valiela et al., 2001; UNEP, 2014). Driven by high economic profitability and the tremendous worldwide demand for shrimp, the rapidly expanding shrimp industry is now one of the main causes of the disappearance of mangrove forests, especially in Asian countries. The Global Nature Fund, with the support of Mercedes-Benz AG and Daimler Truck AG, is taking action here as well: since 2019, the GNF and its partners on the ground in Bangladesh and India in dialog with the shrimp producers have been developing models that allow mangrove trees to be replanted on the farms. Together, we want to ensure that these shrimps, produced extensively and in a mangrove-friendly manner, are competitive on the market and that the appreciation for these products increases on the European market so that the local shrimp producers can make a living from their work.
The Global Nature Fund (GNF) is currently working with project partners in India (CReNIEO, ARASMIN and Nature Environment & Wildlife Society), Sri Lanka (EMACE and Nagenahiru Foundation), Bangladesh (Bangladesh Environment and Development Society) and in the Maldives (Maldivian Coral Reef Society and Huvadhoo Aid) on mangrove protection.
We have gathered together the results of the GNF project initiative over the last years as well as lessons learned and a guide on ecological mangrove restoration in a handbook.