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IUCN Report Warns of Global Mangrove Ecosystem Collapse


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a new report indicating that half of the world’s mangrove ecosystems are at risk of collapsing. This is the IUCN’s first comprehensive global assessment of mangroves. The report, titled “Red List of Mangrove Ecosystems,” was unveiled on International Day for Biodiversity (22nd May).


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings of the Mangrove Ecosystem Study
  2. Mangrove Forests: Presence and Significance

Key Findings of the Mangrove Ecosystem Study

Study Overview:

The study analyzed the world’s mangrove ecosystems across 36 regions, referred to as provinces, to assess the threats and risk of collapse in each area.

Major Findings:

Risk of Collapse:

  • Over 50% of the world’s mangrove ecosystems are at risk of collapse, classified as either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. Nearly 1 in 5 is facing severe risk.

Impact of Sea-Level Rise:

  • One-third of the world’s mangrove ecosystem provinces will be severely affected by rising sea levels, with 25% of the global mangrove area predicted to be submerged within the next 50 years.

Regional Classifications:

  • The mangrove ecosystem in South India, shared with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, is categorized as “critically endangered.”
  • In contrast, mangrove ecosystems in the Bay of Bengal region (shared with Bangladesh) and the western coast (shared with Pakistan) are classified as “least concerned.”

Climate Change Threat:

  • Globally, climate change is the primary threat to mangrove ecosystems, affecting 33% of mangroves.
  • Other significant threats include deforestation, development, pollution, and dam construction.

Extreme Weather Events:

  • The increased frequency and intensity of cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes, and tropical storms are impacting mangroves along certain coastlines.

Significantly Impacted Areas:

  • Coasts along the Northwest Atlantic, North Indian Ocean, Red Sea, South China Sea, and Gulf of Aden are expected to be significantly affected.

Need for Conservation:

  • Without enhanced conservation efforts, approximately 7,065 square kilometers (5%) of additional mangrove areas could be lost, and 23,672 square kilometers (16%) could be submerged by 2050.

Mangrove Forests: Presence and Significance

  • Mangrove forests comprise the interface between wetlands and sea grass meadows along a vast expanse of tropical shorelines all over the world.
  • They also occur along bays, estuaries or mouths of rivers by these shores.
  • Mangroves are present worldwide on various shorelines between approximately 25°N and 25°S latitude.
  • Mangrove forests are one of the greatest sources of biodiversity on this planet.
  • They have a rich underwater component, a surface component and an aerial component.
  • Mangrove communities include fish, insects, shellfish, birds of many species, saltwater crocodiles, monkeys, algae and fungi.
  • Many organisms, especially fish, spend their early years in the protection of the mangroves and their intricate below and above-ground root systems.
How are Mangrove Forests Useful?
  • Mangroves, along with sea grasses and wetlands, comprise the ‘blue carbon’ ecosystem of stored carbon in sediments along many tropical and subtropical coastal zones.
  • Their complex aerial and submerged root systems moderate current flows and the canopies moderate wind flow — they are the interface between the wetlands and sea grass communities for the continental flow of water and solutes into the ecosystem.
  • Mangroves also supply fuelwood and other forest products, like food and medicine, for people.
  • And, in addition to the nutrition they give us, mangroves protect us — along with other trees and forests, mangroves sequester a sizeable amount of carbon to offset greenhouse gas emissions created by human activities.
  • When mangrove trees die of natural causes, they generally fall into the sea and the carbon may be stored in the sediment on the sea floor for long periods of time.
Types of Mangrove Trees
  • The term ‘mangrove’ is used to refer to a whole community of trees and shrubs, which are not closely related.
  • The Mangrove trees have all adapted to harsh coastal environments of saline, brackish waters and low oxygen conditions.
  • There are over 100 species of trees and shrubs designated as mangroves.
  • However, there are three classic groups of mangroves — the red mangroves (Rhizophoraceae), the black mangroves (Acanthaceae) and the white mangroves (Combretaceae).

-Source: Indian Express

June 2024