The Big Mangrove Survey Project
We are about to launch our latest citizen science research project and its’s all about mangroves. So why are we starting a project about mangroves ……
Mangroves are Incredible!
Mangroves are not only a critical element of the oceans ecosystem they are also critical to the survival of coastal communities around the world and in some part the whole of humanity. Mangroves form the environmental foundation for hundreds of marine ecosystems providing nurseries and feeding grounds for an enormous number of species. Without the mangroves many of these species of fish, crustaceans, birds, insects and mammals would simply not exist.
However, the most incredible thing about mangroves is what they do for humans, things that most people don’t even realise. The livelihoods of communities that live in mangrove areas are intrinsically linked with the health of the mangrove systems. It provides food and is an essential part of local economies, but it also protects the coastline from the ravages of severe weather events, coastal erosion and sea level rise. Many harbours are fringed with mangroves giving them an extra layer of protection without which they might be untenable.
The benefits of mangroves are not just limited to the local communities that live beside them. Mangroves also have an enormous capacity to absorb and store carbon. In fact, they can absorb ten times more carbon than an equivalent area of territorial forest and by protecting mangrove forests they could account for 30% of the solution to climate change. However, although mangrove forests are critical they are under threat. Coastal squeeze, a process of urbanisation behind mangrove forests, restricts their movement and expansion landwards and reduces their effectiveness in combatting sea level rise and coastal erosion. The removal of development of fish ponds and shrimp farms for profit results in a reduction in the protection they provide from sever storms.
The Project will increase our understanding of the issues
These super plants need our protection because they protect us. The problem is that before we can protect them we need a better understanding of the health of existing mangrove forests. This understanding would enable us to identify those areas at risk, plant new mangroves where they are needed and best apply limited resource to ensuring this precious ecosystem is protected for the benefit of mankind not just the local communities that live around them.
That is where The Big Mangrove Survey Project comes in. Working alongside scientists from Swansea University and University of Portsmouth, we have developed a research protocol that will enable us to use citizen scientists, individuals, schools, universities and NGOs to undertake a global survey of our coastal mangrove forests. This unique and ambitious project has already developed partnerships with NGOs in Gambia and Antigua and we will shortly be running trials of the protocol in order that the process can be adapted for regional variations of species and fauna.
We are currently in the process of getting funding to develop this programme and then we will be ready to launch it to the global community. Watch this space for further updates.