Keeping the spotlight on mangrove forests
World Mangrove Day may not be big on your list of holidays, but it’s a red-letter day for Seacology and conservationists around the globe. That’s because mangrove forests are environmental superstars. They cover just a small fraction of the planet’s surface, but are crucial to the short-term welfare of coastal communities and to the long-term health of our planet.
Mangroves’ stilt-like roots provide shelter for young fish and other marine life, supporting biodiversity and fisheries. As climate change makes storms more severe and raises sea levels, they save lives by shielding coastal communities from waves, wind, erosion, and flooding. And they are among the most important “blue carbon” ecosystems, which capture carbon from the air and trap it underwater, slowing the rise of global temperatures.
Mangroves remain under threat worldwide, as coastal development rips out these forests–but at Seacology we have prioritized protecting mangroves for years, and we have a lot to celebrate.
This World Mangrove Day (July 26) marks the first anniversary of the launch of our five-year mangrove conservation initiative in the Dominican Republic. In partnership with local NGO Grupo Jaragua, we are promoting awareness and protection for the island nation’s mangroves through outreach to schools, local and national media, and more. The Play for the Mangroves program supports youth sports across the country, providing equipment and uniforms while fostering environmental education and organizing coastal cleanups, mangrove plantings, and other activities for Dominican kids.
The initiative includes a growing number of smaller community-based projects to protect mangroves. For example, at El Astillero, local people are protecting a critical patch of mangroves at the mouth of the El Arroyo River. In Boca Chica, a lagoon and beach area, home to mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrasses, is being preserved.
Several Seacology staff members and supporters recently made their first visit to the country since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has made some work more difficult, the results so far are very encouraging.
“It was so rewarding to see the amazing strides that our partners have made in advancing mangrove awareness and conservation in their home communities,” said Senior Manager for Special Initiatives Karen Peterson, who oversees the project. “Grupo Jaragua has spread the message to vast numbers of people, even with the challenges posed by the pandemic. Thanks to everyone involved, the future of mangroves in the DR looks bright!”
Beyond the Dominican Republic, dozens of active Seacology projects are protecting mangroves, and we are constantly finding new ones. Of the 14 new projects launched this summer, six focus on mangroves. We recently began mangrove conservation work with communities in Brazil and Cameroon, our first projects ever in those countries. And we continue to find new ways to protect these vital wetlands in countries like the Philippines and Mexico. Since our founding, we’ve funded almost 100 mangrove projects.