Planting mangrove seedlings is shown to drive rapid recovery of mangrove ecosystems in Guyana

 

Arlington, VA (July 26, 2021) – A new analysis of a national-scale mangrove planting program shows that planting new mangrove seedlings can successfully restore ecosystems and help degraded mangrove forests bounce back. In some cases, restored mangrove forests are thriving even more than forests that remained intact over the last decade.

Recognizing the ecological threats posed by degrading mangrove forests in 2010, a Guyanese government program (GMRP) planted over half a million mangrove seedlings in its vulnerable coastal areas. Researchers from the University of Guyana, Conservation International, and Boise State University have since assessed how these planted mangroves helped sequester carbon and influence fisheries over the past decade.  

The study, led by University of Guyana graduate faculty, Mark Ram, and co-authored by fellow Guyanese Anand Roopsind based at Conservation International, compares the restored conditions to those of both intact and degraded forests. The research team found that restored forests yield 13% more aboveground vegetation – consisting of mangrove trees’ leaves, twigs, branches and stems – than mangrove forests which remained intact over the past decade. The restored sites have 99% more of this vegetation than degraded sites that had not been restored.

“These results are very encouraging – they help us make the case that mangrove restoration is a necessary practice to ensure these carbon storing ecosystems thrive for years to come,” said Roopsind. “We now know that, with the proper technical knowledge, mangrove plantings can grow back relatively quickly and even lead to healthier mangrove forests overall.”

With coastal development and deforestation leading to the widespread loss of mangrove forests, planting new seedlings has emerged as the leading strategy to regain some of the forests’ ecological benefits – like the critical role they play as fish nurseries and their carbon storage ability, which is higher by area than old-growth forests.

“Not only are mangroves good for our climate, these forests are vital to coastal areas in the tropics. In Guyana, they provide a protective buffer against storms and sea-level rise and act as critical nursery habitats for many seafood species. They are essential for the well-being of so many local communities,” said Mark Ram, co-author of the paper from the University of Guyana.

Despite the successful recovery of mangroves’ aboveground vegetation, in some cases, the restored sites still had less fish diversity than intact sites. Restored areas were dominated by a single species of algae-eating fish, Anabelps anableps (locally known as the four-eyed fish), the same fish that was also dominant in degraded mangroves sites. This result suggests that protecting intact mangrove forests remains extremely important, as recovery of fisheries will require longer time or additional restoration interventions that could economically impact coastal communities.

The study was supported by a capacity-building grant for researchers in developing countries and the Mangrove Department at National Agriculture and Research Institute.

Explore mangrove forests in Guyana here with interactive satellite mapping. The mapping tools explore changes in mangrove extent, mangrove canopy height, and drivers of mangrove loss over the past two decades (complements of NASA ARSET program).

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About Conservation International
Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature. Conservation International works in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International’s work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.