Half of the world’s mangrove forests are at risk of collapse, according to the first expert assessment of these vital ecosystems and carbon stores by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Human activities are the primary drivers of their decline, particularly affecting mangroves in southern India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

The assessment also classified mangrove systems in the South China Sea, central Pacific, and eastern Coral Triangle around Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines as endangered.

Angela Andrade, the chair of the IUCN commission on ecosystem management, said: “Mangrove ecosystems are exceptional in their ability to provide essential services to people, including coastal disaster-risk reduction, carbon storage and sequestration, and support for fisheries. Their loss stands to be disastrous for nature and people across the globe.”

Mangroves, found along tropical coastlines globally, consist of various species of trees and shrubs that provide critical habitats for a wide range of biodiversity, including fish, tigers, African wild dogs, and sloths. These ecosystems are notable for storing nearly three times the carbon per area compared to tropical forests.

Covering about 15% of the world’s coastlines, mangroves are increasingly threatened by rising sea levels, agriculture, coastal developments, pollution, and the impacts of dam construction.

Previous research has identified prawn farms, coastal development, and river dams, which disrupt sediment flow, as significant causes of mangrove loss. The growing threats from rising sea levels and the climate crisis, with more frequent and severe storms, further jeopardize their survival.

The IUCN used its ecosystem risk assessment tools, similar to its red list for species extinction risk, to conduct this comprehensive study involving over 250 global experts. This assessment underscores the urgency of protecting these crucial ecosystems.

Mangroves in Hawaii and southeast Polynesia were excluded from the assessment as they are not naturally part of these ecosystems.

“The red list of ecosystems provides clear pathways on how we can reverse mangroves loss and protect these delicate ecosystems for the future, helping in turn to safeguard biodiversity, tackle the effects of climate change and support the realisation of the Global Biodiversity Framework,” Andrade said.



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