World’s mangroves retreating at alarming rate-study

ABIDJAN, (Reuters) – The world’s mangroves are being  destroyed up to four times faster than other forests, costing  millions of dollars in losses in areas such as fisheries and  storm protection, a report said yesterday.

The study commissioned by the United Nations Environment  Programme (UNEP) and The Nature Conservancy said a fifth of  mangroves had been lost since 1980 and that they continued to be  destroyed at a rate of around 0.7 percent a year by activities  such as coastal construction and shrimp farming.    The ‘World Mangrove Atlas’ report noted that mangrove  forests provide huge economic services, acting as nurseries for  sea fish, storing carbon and providing robust defences against  floods and cyclones at a time of rising sea levels.

The trees and shrubs, which grow in saline coastal habitats,  also provide excellent rot-resistant wood.

“Given their value, there can be no justification for  further mangrove loss,” said Emmanuel Ze Meka, head of the  International Tropical Timber Organisation, which helped fund  the report.

The report cited evidence that mangroves reduced the impact  of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in some places.

It urged nations, especially those with the largest  mangroves like Brazil, Indonesia and and Australia, to do more  to halt the retreat of an estimated 150,000 square kilometres of  global mangrove forest cover.  “The greatest drivers for mangrove forest loss are direct  conversion to aquaculture, agriculture and urban land uses.  Coastal zones are often densely populated and pressure for land  intense. Where mangroves remain, they have often been degraded  through overharvesting,” it found.

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