Mangrove forests are important ecosystems, protecting against floods, soaking up carbon and providing a home to thousands of species. But they’re under threat around the world. And Senegal – a country in which mangrove estuaries have disappeared at an alarming rate – decided to act.

Mangrove forests only grow at tropical and subtropical latitudes and are comprised of about 80 different species of trees in all. The way they grow is distinct, too.

The trees, which prosper in areas with low-oxygen soil, have a dense tangle of roots that appear to grow out of slow-moving waters. These intertwined clusters of roots also provide a home for fish and other creatures seeking food and shelter from predators.

Vital protection

Found in coastal and tidal locations, mangroves absorb excess water and protect the land around them from becoming vulnerable to floods and soil erosion.

Senegal is home to around 185,000 hectares of mangrove estuaries in the Casamance and Sine Saloum regions, according to Livelihoods Funds. But since the 1970s, around 25% of the country’s mangrove forests have been lost. Droughts and deforestation have claimed a total surface area of approximately 45,000 hectares of mangroves.

But Senegal is fighting back. It has planted 79 million mangrove trees, which will help protect vital arable land, preserve aquatic habitats and absorb around 500,000 tonnes of carbon over 20 years.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about mangroves?

The Mangroves Working Group, led by Friends of Ocean Action in collaboration with 1t.org, aims to raise ambition and deliver action towards the conservation and restoration of mangrove forests, by enabling companies and investors to enhance the blue carbon market with support from non-profit leaders and experts.

Objectives include delivering actions towards the group’s ambition, knowledge sharing and capacity-building among members, connecting investors with projects, and, ultimately, enabling the flow of more blue carbon credits into the voluntary carbon market.

How can you get involved?

We are currently seeking corporate members to join this working group and engage in thought leadership, working group meetings, public speaking opportunities, and other activities to elevate the agenda of mangrove conservation and restoration. Please contact us for more information.

A global problem

An area of around 10,000 hectares is being replanted by the Senegalese non-governmental organization Océanium, which receives 10% of its funding from the government and the rest from private sponsors.

The project has also been heavily supported at a local level, with 100,000 people from 350 villages helping restore these important ecosystems in what Océanium has dubbed the world’s largest mangrove reforestation project.

Deforestation is a global problem, affecting ecosystems, indigenous ways of life and the climate. It has been blamed in part for the extraordinarily large sargassum algae bloom that has blighted Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It has also been identified as one of the causes of catastrophic fires in the Amazon rainforest.

Some of Senegal’s near neighbours are experiencing increased rates of deforestation.
Image: World Resources Institute

The theme of Cooperation: Sustainable Development & Environmental Stewardship is being discussed at this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa, which runs from 4-6 September 2019.