The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity, REDD+ and climate change in mangrove ecosystems of Southeast Asia
Mangroves are trees and shrubs that grow in saline coastal habitats. They occupy large stretches of the sub-tropical and tropical coastlines around the world. They not only provide valuable goods such as timber, fish and medicinal plants but also vital ecological services, such as prevention of coastal erosion. They also help buffer coastal communities from storms and floods. During the ASEAN Conference on Biodiversity held in Singapore in 2009, Ellison reported that mangrove forests in South East Asia are among the highest biodiversity resources in the world, occupying an area of 60.9 x 102 km2. Unfortunately, the region also has the highest rates of mangrove loss in the world, losing 628 km2 per year in two decades. In many parts of the world, where mangrove forests have been cleared, there are now problems of erosion and siltation, and loss of life and property have occurred due to destructive hurricanes, storms and tsunamis.The complex relationship between climate change and mangrove ecosystems can be seen from two different angles. On the one hand, mangrove ecosystems have a critical function in combating climate change; on the other hand, they are affected by climate change. The values of ecosystems vary according to local biophysical and ecological circumstances and the social, economic and cultural context. Intangible values, which may be reflected in society’s willingness to pay to conserve particular species or landscapes, or to protect common resources, must be considered alongside more tangible values such as food or timber to provide a complete economic picture. This has important implications for mangrove conservation strategies and suggests that the preservation of contiguous areas is preferable to patches that are spatially dispersed.
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