Marine and Polar

Mangroves and coastal ecosystems

Mangrove forests make up one of the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. They grow in a variety of depths of salt water, their roots sticking up out of the mud, with fish, crustaceans and a host of other species living between tree trunks.

Mangroves have the ability to absorb up to four times more carbon dioxide by area than upland terrestrial forests (Donato et al., 2011). The remarkable traits of the mangrove ecosystem translate into a wide variety of goods and services that we benefit from. These play a critical role in supporting human well-being by delivering the necessities of life like food, shelter and livelihoods. At the same time mangroves reduce loss of property and vulnerability of local communities.

Mangroves and ecosystem servicesPhoto: IUCN

Despite the benefits worth an estimated US$33-57,000 per hectare, mangroves are being degraded, lost, or poorly restored at an alarming rate (UNEP, 2014). Drivers of the degradation vary geographically but include conversion to aquaculture and agriculture, coastal development and infrastructure. While the rate of loss has since stabilised, between 1980 and 2000 about 35% of mangroves were lost - 3-5 times greater than the overall terrestrial forest loss (Duraiappah et al., 2005). Threats are further exacerbated by weak institutional arrangemets, policies and management systems. Additionally, poverty and inequity issues within the communities who depend on the mangroves often result in further overexploitation of the shrinking resources.

Mangroves and threatsPhoto: IUCN

In our efforts to combat this loss and fast-track better managment practices, IUCN became a founding member of the Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA). To generate political action and support capacity building primarily in the wester Indian Ocean, IUCN also partners with WWF-Germany and BMZ in the Save Our Mangroves Now! initiative. With the RAMSAR secretariat, IUCN is also the focal point for the Community of Ocean Action (COA) on Mangroves under United Nation Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14. Finally, IUCN also developed tools to help mangrove managment and restoration activities, such as the mangrove restoration map developed in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy and the University of Cambridge.


Save our Mangroves Now!Photo: IUCN

Save Our Mangroves Now! is being executed in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). This is a joint commitment to contribute to the existing global efforts to halt the decrease of mangrove habitats. Up-scaling of successful protection and restoration measures and initiatives is at the core of our ambitions and we work to enhance awareness, commitment and cooperation for mangrove protection among partner countries, donors and civil society. BMZ and its partners are beginning a new cooperation on mangrove conservation.

Fields of action include:

(1) Embed a global goal for mangrove protection in political agendas

The GMA set a target of increasing the global area of mangrove habitat 20% over current extent by 2030. BMZ, WWF and IUCN support this target and will work towards its integration in relevant international agreements as well as national political agendas. Raising awareness among political decision-makers about the importance of mangroves on a global scale is part of our core endeavors.

(2) Pool leading expertise and enhance knowledge-sharing

To foster synergies, existing mangrove protection efforts of relevant stakeholders such as the GMA will be supported. Enhanced knowledge exchange and the closure of existing knowledge gaps through the elaboration of target-oriented studies will be a major contribution of the new cooperation. The establishment of a joint online-platform (the GMA knowledge hub) will simplify access to information and collected knowledge on mangrove conservation – for practitioners as well as for political decision-makers.

(3) Applicate and disseminate best practices in the Western Indian Ocean

The newly initiated cooperation will apply best practices, develop regional networks as well as mainstream mangrove protection into national development plans and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement in the Western Indian Ocean Region. Thereby, BMZ and

its partners aim at the development of local, national and regional capacities and the improvement of political framework conditions for the effective protection and restoration of mangroves.


Some project outputs include:

Workshop reports-


Communication campaign-

  • @MangrovesNow
  • #humangroves


For more information contact Dorothée Herr (

Donato, D. C., Kauffman, J. B., Murdiyarso, D., Kurnianto, S., Stidham, M. and Kanninen, M. (2011) ‘Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics’, Nature Geoscience, 4(5), pp. 293–297. doi: 10.1038/ngeo1123.

Duraiappah, A. K., Naeem, S., Agardy, T., Ash, N. J., Cooper, H. D., Díaz, S., Faith, D. P., Mace, G., McNeely, J. a., Mooney, H. a., Alfred A. Oteng-Yeboah, Henrique Miguel Pereira, Polasky, S., Prip, C., et al. (2005) Ecosystems and human well-being, Ecosystems. doi: 10.1196/annals.1439.003.

UNEP (2014) The importance of mangroves to people: A call to action. Edited by J. van Bochove, E. Sullivan, and T. Nakamura. Cambridge: United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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