An extensive blue-water mangrove is lined by red mangrove prop roots, Rhizophora mangle, reaching into the water at high tide. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean. © Ethan DanielsThey do it all: sequester greenhouse gases, protect marine life, maintain fresh water and, of course, defend against rising sea levels and storm surges.
They do it all: sequester greenhouse gases, protect marine life, maintain fresh water and, of course, defend against rising sea levels and storm surges.
It’s the lazy days of summer, and many of the folks we know are headed to the coast to spend time with family and relax. We love our coasts, from the wildlife-rich wetlands, to snorkeling reefs and relaxing beaches. But these coastal lands are under threat—and that threat is growing every day.
Why is this kind of work important?
Mangroves are being lost around the world—often converted to shrimp aquaculture that provides short-term gains for local economies. In just a few years, these ponds become diseased and are abandoned. And the lasting value of those mangroves—including protecting communities from flood—is lost forever.
A freediver swims through crystal clear water near a limestone island in Raja Ampat. © Ethan Daniels
If decision-makers can’t see the bigger picture, it’s more likely they will choose over-exploitation and degradation of resources for short-term gains. In the process, these choices reduce the quantity and quality of the goods and services provided by nature.
To really support these decision-makers in making smart, long-term decisions about mangroves and other coastal ecosystems, we need better valuations of the protection services provided by these coastal habitats. We need to clearly demonstrate that these benefits can help meet risk reduction and environmental management objectives—and that they can do it for nearly the same cost (and more beauty) as artificial breakwaters. And we need to put these annual expected benefits in terms of dollars and cents that can be discussed with ministers of finance and development.
An extensive blue-water mangrove is lined by red mangrove prop roots, Rhizophora mangle, reaching into the water at high tide. Mangroves serve as important nurseries for reef fishes. Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean. © Ethan Daniels
At TNC, we’ve found that leading-edge science and rigorous valuations open entirely new opportunities for conservation and restoration. And it opens new partnerships in developing innovative tools, such as parametric insurance policies and blue and resilience bonds for investing in nature. It is why we are working with Swiss Re, Lloyd’sand Munich Re on innovative tools to build resilience with coastal habitats. And it’s why others, like CH2M are working with us on developing engineering guidelines to use nature for building coastal resilience.