Photo: Prasert, Adobe Stock
Mangrove habitats are essential to the livelihoods of many coastal communities worldwide, and their importance is marked each year with the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem.
From food security to flood protection, mangrove ecosystems provide a range of vital benefits to people and nature.
In 1993, the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary was designated as one of Cambodia’s 23 Protected Areas. Within the protected area there are 23,750 hectares of mangrove forest, and the area is home to 64 types of mangrove.
A recent study highlighted the importance of mangroves to the 350 households that form the Peam Krasoap community, which is located around the island and the mangrove-lined channels.
The local mangrove habitat supports fishing livelihoods. The estimated volume of annual landed catch for this community is over 1000 tonnes of fish and other seafood, bringing in a gross income of an estimated 1.2 million US$. 90% of the catch and 85% of its monetary value was from known mangrove-associated species. On a household level, households catch an average of 6tonnes of fish and invertebrates per year, amounting to a gross annual income of 6,935 US$.
The local mangroves forests are also crucial to food security. Interviews with members of the Peam Krasaop Fishing Community showed that households derive most of their fish and seafood consumption from mangrove-fishing catches. If the local households kept just 5% of their annual catch for eating, the average consumption per person would be an estimated 62kg of fish or seafood each year- far higher than the national average.
The collection of this data was only possible thanks to the local knowledge provided by community members. Understanding the value and importance of ecosystems to local communities is essential for decision-making. The study found that when local knowledge is not considered, the value that mangroves provide to livelihoods can be underestimated. This in turn can lead to land use decisions that do not account for the importance of mangroves to communities.
This can be especially detrimental to households of lower wealth levels, as research finds these are the members of the community that rely on mangroves resources the most and would struggle to adapt to new practices if mangroves forests ceased to be accessible.
20% of the world’s mangroves, or 3.6 million hectares, was lost between 1980 and 2005, mostly due to human activities such as agriculture, aquaculture, and unsustainable forestry. While the rate of loss of mangroves has declined since then, they are still declining three to five times faster than other forests globally. Such loss is further exacerbated by climate change.
The study of the Peam Krasaop Fishing Community emphasises the risk to local people from mangrove loss. In addition to the importance of mangrove fisheries to livelihoods, mangrove habitats’ role as nature-based solutions to rising sea levels, storm surges, and coastal erosion is well-documented.
Protecting, conserving, and sustainably using existing mangrove habitats is crucial to achieving global biodiversity, climate, and sustainable development policies and targets, and supporting the wellbeing of coastal communities worldwide.
Mangrove habitats that have already been degraded also need to be restored. The recent #GenerationRestoration report focuses on eight ecosystem types in urgent need of restoration: farmlands, forests, grasslands and savannahs, mountains, peatlands, urban areas, freshwaters, and oceans (including mangroves). To keep global temperature rise below 2°C, ensure food security and slow the rate of species extinctions, effective and sustainable conservation and restoration of each of these ecosystems is essential. Find out more about the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.