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    • Article

      Ecological role and services of tropical mangrove ecosystems: a reassessment 

      Aim

      To reassess the capacity of mangroves for ecosystem services in the light of recent data.

      Location

      Global mangrove ecosystems.

      Methods

      We review four long-standing roles of mangroves: (1) carbon dynamics – export or sink; (2) nursery role; (3) shoreline protection; (4) land-building capacity. The origins of pertinent hypotheses, current understanding and gaps in our knowledge are highlighted with reference to biogeographic, geographic and socio-economic influences.

      Results

      The role of mangroves as C sinks needs to be evaluated for a wide range of biogeographic regions and forest conditions. Mangrove C assimilation may be under-estimated because of flawed methodology and scanty data on key components of C dynamics. Peri-urban mangroves may be manipulated to provide local offsets for C emission. The nursery function of mangroves is not ubiquitous but varies with spatio-temporal accessibility. Connectivity and complementarity of mangroves and adjacent habitats enhance their nursery function through trophic relay and ontogenetic migrations. The effectiveness of mangroves for coastal protection depends on factors at landscape/geomorphic to community scales and local/species scales. Shifts in species due to climate change, forest degradation and loss of habitat connectivity may reduce the protective capacity of mangroves. Early views of mangroves as land builders (especially lateral expansion) were questionable. Evidence now indicates that mangroves, once established, directly influence vertical land development by enhancing sedimentation and/or by direct organic contributions to soil volume (peat formation) in some settings.

      Main conclusions

      Knowledge of thresholds, spatio-temporal scaling and variability due to geographic, biogeographic and socio-economic settings will improve the management of mangrove ecosystem services. Many drivers respond to global trends in climate change and local changes such as urbanization. While mangroves have traditionally been managed for subsistence, future governance models must involve partnerships between local custodians of mangroves and offsite beneficiaries of the services.
    • Article

      The loss of species: Mangrove extinction risk and geographic areas of global concern 

      Mangrove species are uniquely adapted to tropical and subtropical coasts, and although relatively low in number of species, mangrove forests provide at least US $1.6 billion each year in ecosystem services and support coastal livelihoods worldwide. Globally, mangrove areas are declining rapidly as they are cleared for coastal development and aquaculture and logged for timber and fuel production. Little is known about the effects of mangrove area loss on individual mangrove species and local or regional populations. To address this gap, species-specific information on global distribution, population status, life history traits, and major threats were compiled for each of the 70 known species of mangroves. Each species' probability of extinction was assessed under the Categories and Criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Eleven of the 70 mangrove species (16%) are at elevated threat of extinction. Particular areas of geographical concern include the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central America, where as many as 40% of mangroves species present are threatened with extinction. Across the globe, mangrove species found primarily in the high intertidal and upstream estuarine zones, which often have specific freshwater requirements and patchy distributions, are the most threatened because they are often the first cleared for development of aquaculture and agriculture. The loss of mangrove species will have devastating economic and environmental consequences for coastal communities, especially in those areas with low mangrove diversity and high mangrove area or species loss. Several species at high risk of extinction may disappear well before the next decade if existing protective measures are not enforced.