In recent years, hundreds and sometimes thousands of volunteers have been involved in mass mangrove planting efforts, gaining media recognition and even earning entries into the Guinness Book of World Records. This has drawn attention to the urgent need to address the global degradation of coastal ecosystems.
But are these planting initiatives sustainable? Do they have the desired impact? In short, do they work?
Coastal communities are first to face the impacts of coastal degradation – reduced flood protection, decreased water quality, extreme soil erosion and a rapid decline in the variety and abundance of food sources (many of which come from mangroves in the tropics).
Mass mangrove plantings should help address these challenges in certain areas, but instead many restoration efforts worldwide (for example, in the Philippines) are failing.
There are several issues. Restoring a mangrove is a complex process that needs to be founded on the principles of ecosystem management. Often, fast-paced and large-scale ‘restoration events’ are not necessarily scientifically robust in terms of which mangrove species should be restored, and where.
There are three common mistakes:
- Not choosing the right species for the right site;
- Not choosing the ‘right mix’ of species;
- Not adequately involving the local communities in the process – beyond paid labor and photo opportunities.