Coastal forests are coming under increasing pressure as a result of population growth in certain regions and increased economic activity. Increasing and conflicting demands on natural resources require governments to establish criteria, priorities and actions to regulate the uses of coastal areas, based on available information and its analysis. Such analysis has to focus on the number of people affected and the benefits to be derived from alternative land-use options, the degree of social disruption and the economic, financial and environmental costs. The setting of priorities raises, in turn, a number of institutional issues and capability requirements.
Coastal forests are different from inland forests insofar as they consist largely of mangroves and other species whose importance for the coastal environment and ecosystems are very poorly understood by local populations and especially by newly established actors. This places such areas under great threat of destruction, with potentially disastrous consequences. In addition, forests are often seen as an obstacle to development rather than a resource to support, and the direct and indirect contributions of forests to food security and the provision of other services by coastal forests are underestimated. ICAM can serve as a framework to correct some of these misconceptions among politicians, public opinion and the media.
For successful conservation and development of coastal forest resources under an ICAM plan, people and governments alike must be convinced that the land planned to remain under forest cover is at least equally or more valuable when kept as forest than if converted into another form of land use. Social and economic benefits emanating from such forests, and their sustainable use, must be quantified, maintained and enhanced at the local as well as the national level. An essential need is therefore to develop an understanding of their direct and indirect values, in particular their positive interactions with other sectors, as a means of affording them greater protection, to the benefit of all users of coastal areas. People living in or adjacent to these forests must be closely involved in all stages of formulation and implementation of the ICAM plan.
Forest management under ICAM will therefore be concerned mainly with protecting forests and with ensuring that the full benefits are drawn from their positive effects on other sectors.