Environmental Law

Mangrove Governance, Conservation and Use

Mangrove ecosystems are under threat from a changing set of pressures. Historically, the primary threats to mangroves have come from conversion for aquaculture or agricultural use, and cutting for timber.[1] While these remain significant, new threats are emerging, including pollution, diversion of upstream water sources, offshore mining and land reclamation for development.
Racines enchevêtrées et marées changeantes -- Gouvernance des mangroves pour la conservation et l’utilisation durable

Mangroves worldwide face multiple threats and are disappearing despite the essential services they provide supporting the livelihoods of over 120 million people across the globe. The ELC worked with lawyers from seven countries to develop a comprehensive study detailing the legal and institutional frameworks affecting mangroves, and their impact on stakeholders’ behaviour and the natural environment.

This study  is now available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese!

Survey responses from experts asked to choose up to three main threats to mangroves indicate that the main threat chosen was agriculture, representing both land conversion for agriculture and agricultural pollution. Aquaculture remains a primary threat as perceived by experts. However, threats such as disruption of the water cycle and urban development received significant attention.

Mangrove conservation efforts are largely aimed at preventing destruction of mangrove ecosystems, and increasing coverage. A key issue is not just destruction but degradation of mangrove ecosystems, through pollution, siltation, changes in salinity or loss of biodiversity. These aspects pose challenges for legal frameworks as well as assessment of outcomes, where it is easier to measure hectares than health of mangrove ecosystems. Including measures of degradation can lead to an understanding of the seriousness of the problem with a much greater area under threat.

Population growth and urban development lead to increased demand for mangrove products, such as seafood and charcoal, as well as diversion of water, increased agricultural load and municipal solid waste and sewage. In India, large coastal cities are turning tidal creeks and channels into disposal drains for large quantities of municipal sewage, much of which ends up in mangrove ecosystems.[2]

Many activities that affect mangroves do not take place within the mangrove area itself.  In the case of pollution or interference with the hydrological cycle, the harmful activity may take place far upstream, even in a different country.Countries are beginning to recognize changing threats through changing policies and strategies.


Legal Matrices on Mangroves Conservation and Use










[1] See, e.g. Juliana López-Angarita, Callum M. Roberts, Alexander Tilley, Julie P. Hawkins, Richard G. Cooke, Mangroves and people: Lessons from a history of use and abuse in four Latin American countries, Forest Ecology and Management 368 (2016) 151-162.; Brian Rotich, Esther Mwangi, Steven Lawry, Where land meets the sea - A global review of the governance and tenure dimensions of coastal mangrove forests, 2016, p.3; Hanneke Van Lavieren, Mark Spalding, Daniel M. Alongi, Mami Kainuma, Miguel Clüsener-Godt, Zafar Adeel, Securing the future of mangroves, United Nations University; Mona Webber, Hilconida Calumpong, Beatrice Ferreira, Elise Granek, Sean Green, Renison Ruwa, Mário Soares, “mangroves” (2016), Oceans & law of the sea, United Nations, p.3.

[2] See e.g., Rajarshi DasGupta and Rajib Shaw, Changing Perspectives of Mangrove Management in India -- An analytical overview, Ocean and Coastal management 80 (2013) 107-118.

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