Background – Mangroves are a specialized group of plants that have adapted to grow in the marine environment in tropical and subtropical coastlines. Mangroves form the interface between the land and the sea and are highly productive ecosystems that provide habitats for a great diversity of animals and plants, as well as an important and natural form of coastal protection against flooding events and rising sea levels.
As mangroves grow in intertidal and estuarine environments they experience changing salinity levels due to inundation by seawater during high tides, exposure to open air at low tide and fresh water during heavy rains or floods. Mangroves have thus evolved specialized breathing roots and salt secreting leaves enabling them to thrive in the intertidal zone where concentrations of salt would kill or inhibit the growth of most other plants.
The dense intertwining roots of mangroves hold the best breeding and feeding grounds for known commercial fisheries and the buffering of terrestrial runoff provides clear waters for healthy seagrass, coral reefs and pelagic waters. Mangroves also provide a crucial role in the protection of coastal villages in PNG as well as being vital in supporting the livelihoods of both artisan and subsistence fishermen throughout the country’s marine provinces. Mangroves comprise just 2% of Papua New Guinea’s forest area, yet despite their recognized ecological and ecosystem service value they are threatened by increasing cutting for timber and firewood, as well as by rising sea levels. The loss of mangroves also causes a disproportionate release of C02 emissions, with globally mangrove destruction responsible for 10% of carbon emissions.
WCS PNG is working closely with coastal communities in protecting the mangrove forests of Papua New Guinea which is second only to Indonesia in mangrove species richness, with 45 species found in PNG. We also recognize that mangroves are a highly valued resource in maritime provinces of Papua New Guinea where people’s dependence on marine resources is very high. Since 2012 we have been working together with coastal communities in south coast Manus Island and within Kavieng District in New Ireland in replanting more than 3,000 mangrove seedlings, to help in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change particularly coastal flooding.
We have also been running mangrove restoration training courses at the community level, where selected community members are trained at raising awareness on the importance of mangroves with emphasis on the ecological role of mangroves in acting as nature defense against the intensifying storm surges and cyclones caused by global warming. The training equips participants with techniques required to set up mangrove nurseries to restore mangrove areas that have been degraded by anthropogenic activities and planting mangroves in areas prone to climate change effects.
We have so far trained more than 50 participants in New Ireland and Gulf Province where we have collaborated with the Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD). Our current project with the OCCD is the completion of a community-based mangrove planting handbook which will be launched in 2014 and be used by communities to enhance and extend mangrove restoration and conservation in vulnerable coastal communities throughout Papua New Guinea.