Story | 16 Mar, 2017

Can restoring mangroves help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

The answer is yes. Restoring and protecting mangroves helps fulfil multiple Global Goals, from improving life below water, to reducing poverty and hunger, to many goals in between. We take a closer look at why.

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Photo: James Oliver

In September 2015, 193 countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a roadmap to alleviate global poverty, advance social and economic development and importantly, further the integrated management of natural systems.

The importance of restoring and protecting mangroves is reflected most clearly in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which focuses on sustainably governing our oceans and coasts and recognises mangroves’ immense value to local communities. But restoring mangrove forests also supports the achievement of many other SDGs, including eliminating poverty and hunger (SDG 1 and SDG 2), ensuring livelihoods and economic growth (SDG 8), taking actions against climate change impacts (SDG 13) and halting biodiversity loss (SDG 15). Here’s why:

1. Mangrove forests are productive and species-rich hubs for marine life

Restoring mangroves means regaining extremely productive ecosystems that provide breeding and nursery grounds and ideal habitats for a variety of plant and animal species (15.5 – see SDG details below). For example, India’s mangroves are home to 4,011 species (the highest in the world), many of which are edible fish and shellfish – providing sufficient and nutritious food directly to local communities. Poor and vulnerable populations can especially benefit from these readily available sources (2.1).

2. Diverse opportunities from mangroves can offer sustainable income

The sustainable harvest of mangrove products for market sales can create valuable business for local communities and small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers (2.3). Moreover, local income opportunities can be created through the creation of management and planning jobs involved in restoration projects (8.5).

3. Mangrove forests are carbon-rich protective buffer zones between land and sea

Restoring mangrove forests directly targets goals related to climate adaptation and mitigation. Mangrove belts of sufficient width act as storm barriers that strengthen the resilience of coastal zones from climate-related hazards such as storm surges and sea-level rise and control coastal erosion (13.1).

Mangrove restoration sites can also be strategically placed to contribute to upgrading infrastructure with greater adoption of environmentally sound technologies (9.4) through applying ‘green-grey infrastructures’ for coastal protection. These actions build the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities by reducing their exposure to climate-related extreme events and environmental shocks and disasters (1.5).

Because mangrove forests are highly efficient carbon sinks, nations will be able to apply mangrove restoration efforts towards the operationalisation of integrated policies and plans to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change (13.2).

4. Integrative approach to mangrove restoration

The process of mangrove restoration can and should create opportunities for local people to engage as stakeholders in planning and implementation of restoration projects. Mangrove information centres could work toward raising awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature (12.8) and could promote mangrove forests as recreational areas that attract tourism (8.9).

In February 2017 a preparatory meeting for the United Nations Ocean Conference took place in New York. Participants of the meeting considered the elements of a "Call for Action" – an inter-governmental declaration to support the implementation of SDG 14. In addition, they decided on the themes for the multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues, which will support the achievement of the SDGs in all countries. Theme 2 explicitly addresses managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems.

The Ocean Conference will be held in June 2017, offering further opportunities to highlight the contributions to economic development made by sustainable mangrove management and restoration.


SDGs addressed by mangrove restoration

1.5 By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

2.1 By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round

2.3 By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

8.9 By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

9.4 By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities

12.8 By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature

13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries

13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning

15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

This article series on mangrove restoration is written by Juliet Blum and Dorothée Herr from IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme with the support of Germany's International Climate Initiative (IKI) through the IUCN Global Forest and Climate Change Programme.