Mangroves of the WIO: Ecosystems Worth Protecting
While recognizing the important role that mangroves play by providing many critical ecosystem goods and services to millions of people in the region; and appreciating the commonality of the myriad of challenges that these ecosystems face, a WIO Mangrove Network was formed to provide a forum for scientists, managers and policy makers from government and NGO institutions to contribute to solutions for addressing the challenges at national and regional levels. Among others, the network focus on expertise sharing and capacity development in mangrove research and management across the region; and raise the profile of mangroves as critically important ecosystems that transforms many livelihoods in the region.The total area of mangroves in the WIO is estimated to be 1 million ha representing about 5% of the global mangrove coverage. The best developed mangroves in the region are found in the deltas of Rufiji River (Tanzania), Tana River (Kenya), Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers (Mozambique) and along the west coast of Madagascar at Mahajanga, Nosy Be and Hahavavy. These mangroves are recognized for providing an array of valuable ecosystem services, including wood products, fisheries production and storm buffering, which are critical to environmental health and human wellbeing in the region. In the context of climate change, the global role of mangroves as carbon sinks has become more appreciated as they sequester about five times more carbon per unit area than any forest ecosystem. However, the decline of these spatially limited ecosystems due to multiple global and local pressures is increasing, thus rapidly altering the composition, structure and function of these ecosystems and their capacity to provide ecosystem services essential for the livelihoods of people in this realm. Compounding factors that aggravate mangrove degradation and loss which are common across the WIO region include overexploitation, land-use change, pollution and more recently climate change.