Climate change threat to Pacific Ocean mangroves

Action is needed to conserve mangroves in the Pacific amid concern that rising sea levels, linked with climate change, are set to drown large areas of these precious and economically important ecosystems, the United Nations Environment Programme said today citing new research.

Some islands in the region could see over half of the mangroves steadily lost by the end of the century, with the worst hit being American Samoa, Fiji, Tuvalu, and the Federated States of Micronesia, the agency said.

The study, “Pacific Island Mangroves in a Changing Climate and Rising Seas,” assessed the vulnerability of the 16 Pacific Island countries and territories that have native mangroves, finds that overall as much as 13 per cent of the mangrove area may be lost.

“There are many compelling reasons for fighting climate change – the threats to mangroves in the Pacific, and by inference across other low lying parts of the tropics, underline yet another reason to act,” Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, said.

“Industrialized nations must meet their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the international emission-reduction treaty, as a first step to the even deeper cuts needed to stabilize the atmosphere,” he added.

The new report has been compiled by the Regional Seas Programme of UNEP, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) based in Apia, Samoa, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council in Honolulu, United States, and well over a dozen additional agencies and organizations from the Pacific Islands region.

They underline that, in common with other terrestrial and marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves provide an array of valuable goods and services upon which local people and industries like tourism depend. According to some estimates, the goods and services generated by mangroves may be worth an average of $900,000 per square kilometer, depending on their location and uses.

Roughly half the world’s mangrove area has been lost since 1900 as a result of clearances for developments like shrimp farms. 35 per cent of this loss has occurred in the past two decades, according to UNEP.

Hanneke Van Lavieren of UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme, who contributed to the study, recalled that the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development set an ambitious target to achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010. “We hope this new report and its recommendations on mangroves and climate change can play its part towards achieving the biodiversity goal in the Pacific,” he said.

Source: UN News