“The significance of mangrove forests for the poorer population groups living along coastlines is impossible to overestimate,” says Thies Geertz, a project leader at the Global Nature Fund. “Because of the destruction of the mangroves, the fishing nets of local fishermen along the coasts stay empty. 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. In addition, the mangroves have to be protected 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.”
Daimler has supported the Global Nature Fund’s project work to restore mangrove forests in southern Asia since 2014. The new mangrove project will run until the end of 2019 and it aims to restore 150 hectares of mangrove forests in four locations in India and Sri Lanka and to protect them. Mercedes-Benz India Private Limited will participate in this project at the local level by providing it with funding for three years. Together with local communities, it will create tree nurseries for mangrove seedlings and subsequently plant tens of thousands of seedlings along the coastline. 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 all over the world live within ten kilometers of mangrove swamps.
In their totality, mangroves serve as an enormous global carbon sink, and for this reason they play an important role in the stabilization of our planet’s climate. A healthy stock of trees in a mangrove forest can store far more carbon than a tropical rain forest — up to 1,000 tons per hectare. Ever since the 1980s, the total area covered by mangrove forests has decreased by about 25 percent — that corresponds to about 3.75 million hectares. As a result, mangroves 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 the main cause of the disappearance of mangrove forests, especially in Asian countries. Further causes include deforestation to gain firewood and building materials and the construction of hotel complexes along tropical coasts in response to the increased demand from international tourism.
In order to stop this development and restore the natural livelihood of communities living in mangrove areas, measures to restore the mangrove forests were launched in 2004 by the Global Nature Fund (GNF) in cooperation with global project partners in India (CReNIEO), Sri Lanka (EMACE and Nagenahiru Foundation), Thailand (Mangrove Action Project, MAP), and Cambodia (Fisheries Action Coalition Team, FACT).
The results of GNF’s project activities in the four project countries in recent years, as well as the lessons learned and instructions for environment-friendly mangrove renaturation (EMR) have been compiled in a handbook in English.