Importance of sustainable management and conservation of the unique and special mangrove ecosystems

July 26, 2021

Coastline with Mangrove trees. Photo Credit: © GCCA+/EU 2019

Mangroves are important - for life on earth. Communities living along the coast, depend on mangroves for food, coastal protection and income. Taking all these elements into consideration, mangroves enable this through the provision of ecosystem services while providing fish, timber, clean water and supporting tourism.

Therefore, on July 26, International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, we would like to raise awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystems as a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem and to promote solutions for their sustainable management, conservation and use.

The Surinamese population has most economic activities situated along the coast and is now experiencing, more than ever before, a major threat from the rising sea. Sea level rise, flooding, land erosion and decreasing biodiversity are phenomena of which occurrences have increased in Suriname due to the impacts of climate change.

Degraded mangrove vegetation at Weg Naar Zee. Photo Credit: © IICA 2019

Mangroves are important trees that have unique characteristics for growing in saline or brackish water. Their aerial roots have the ability to retain clay particles that support land accretion. When the sea water rises, the roots are inundated with water and suspended mud. When the water recedes, some of the mud is left behind between the roots. In this way, mangrove trees add land and protect the land from continuous soil and coastal erosion. In doing so, they provide natural protection against rising sea levels, storm surge and flooding.

In Suriname, mangroves also grow along the riverbanks, in estuaries and further inland, as well as along our entire muddy coast. The 'black mangrove' or 'parwa' is most commonly known. Unfortunately, successive years of natural coastal erosion and landscape changes for agricultural use, as well as urbanization, have reduced the extent of the mangrove forest in certain areas. This has exposed our coastal communities to the devastation of the negative effects of climate change, particularly sea level rise1

Degradation of Mangrove Area. Photo Credit: © GCCA+/EU 2019

The decline in mangrove vegetation, exacerbated by the effects of climate change also negatively affects bee populations.   The decline in the bee population also poses a risk to food security as the production of fruit bearing crops and honey depend on healthy and abundant bee populations. The vicious circle that this creates is that the decline of mangrove forests means that there is less mangrove nectar available to the bees, which in turn can cause a reduction in the number of bees. Fewer bees lead to less pollination of mangrove blossoms, thus less mangrove seeds and thus less natural recovery of mangrove forests. But also, less production of crops like tomatoes, vegetables, fruit and honey. Bees make a very large contribution to world food production and to other flowers, vegetation types and certainly to our mangrove forests which are very important for coastal protection.

Efforts aimed at reducing the negative effects of climate change in the Caribbean are largely focused on artificial man-made infrastructure protection solutions and the rehabilitations of mangrove through replanting the affected areas. Although these approaches are successful to a certain extent, a more effective integrated approach is needed for sustainable coastal protection.

Introducing and training the bee farmers on Permapiculture. Photo Credit: © IICA 2019.

To properly address the rehabilitation of mangrove through replanting affected areas, the Global Climate Change Alliance Suriname Adaptation Project (#GCCA +), funded by the European Union (#EU), in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and other government partners, designed the project in 2019, "Promoting Sustainable Livelihood through the Utilization of Permapiculture for Mangrove Rehabilitation in Coastal Communities in Suriname”, to ensure that beekeepers are provided with new methods to ensure the continuation of honey production in a resilient manner.

The rehabilitation of mangrove forest can be increased in an innovative way through Permapiculture. A new approach where Permapiculture is linked to the rehabilitation of mangrove forests is based on the idea that increased pollination of mangrove flowers by bees, will significantly increase the production of mangrove seeds. The higher the seed production, the greater the chance of successful natural regeneration. This complements the artificial man-made protective solutions and reduces the need for and cost of building infrastructural works. The added result is a higher production of mangrove seeds, black mangrove honey and other products.

The sustainable benefits that this system provides for coastal residents are therefore more income and better regeneration of mangroves. This will be beneficial for the mangrove forests and the livelihood of these coastal residents, who will be better protected against climate change.

That’s why protecting natural ecosystems like mangrove forests not only helps preserve biodiversity, but it also helps preserve a vital resource for local communities.

1-----Video documentary of project "Promoting Sustainable Livelihood through the Utilization of Permapiculture for Mangrove Rehabilitation in Coastal Communities in Suriname”, published by IICA, financed by EU /UNDP, GGCA+ phase 1 in 2019.