IUCN Report: Half of Mangrove Ecosystems Are at Risk of Collapse

Mangroves cover nearly 60,000 square miles, or about 15% of the world’s coastlines. They provide protection and livelihoods to their communities and are an important nature-based solution to climate change. According to a recent report, though, half of them are at risk of collapse.

IUCN recently released what it says is the first global assessment of a full ecosystem functional group using its Red List of Ecosystems, this one focusing on mangroves. The effort was helped along and reviewed by more than 250 experts from 44 countries with mangroves. These ecosystems are primarily found in tropical, sub-tropical, and warm temperate coasts.


According to the report, 50% of mangrove ecosystems are either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. Nearly 20% of them are in the latter two groups, meaning they’re at severe risk of collapse. Should current trends continue, 25% are expected to be submerged in the next 50 years. The most-impacted areas are expected to be in the Northwest Atlantic, North Indian Ocean, Red Sea, South China Sea, and Gulf of Aden.

Why are mangroves so threatened? The report identifies several reasons. One of the primary issues is habitat degradation, which can come about due to wood exploitation, deforestation for agriculture and shrimp farming, and dam construction and ag irrigation limiting how much freshwater and sediment are reaching coastal areas. Climate change is also an issue, as sea levels rise and storms become more frequent and severe.

This is a problem, the writers note, because of the importance of mangroves to their communities and the world as a whole. Mangroves store nearly 11 billion tons of carbon, about three times as much as tropical forests of the same size. They also provide protection from coastal disasters each year for more than 15 million people. This is in addition to the biodiversity conservation and goods they provide.


With such an important natural resource facing such dire threats, IUCN hopes their findings spur action.

The organization writes, “We hope that this global study can help guide future national assessments and actions to mitigate further mangrove loss through informed decision-making. However, it is recommended that countries should always use national, sub-national or other lower scale assessment results whenever these are available.

“Maintaining Ecosystem integrity is key for coping with climate change impacts. Ensuring maintenance of old growth mangrove forest, for example, will increase the resilience of the system and the capacity of other mangrove areas to recover and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

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