10 March 2003, Rome -- A
new FAO assessment on the status of mangrove forests worldwide
indicates that while the rate of mangrove deforestation is high,
it has been gradually decreasing over the past 20 years.
According to the survey, the most
comprehensive to date on the state of the world's mangrove
forests, the mangrove area worldwide had fallen below 15 million
hectares by the end of 2000, down from an estimated 19.8 million
hectares in 1980. However, although mangrove deforestation
continues, the rate of deforestation has slowed from 1.7 percent
a year from 1980 to 1990 to 1.0 percent a year from 1990 to
"This study takes into
account even the smallest countries. Even though they
didn't add much to the total, the mangroves in these
countries are very important at the local level. In fact,
mangroves may be the only forest resource that they
have," says Mette LÝyche Wilkie, FAO Forestry Officer.
A vital resource
Mangroves are usually found along tropical
and sub-tropical coastlines. In addition to protecting the coast
against erosion due to wind, waves and water currents, mangroves
also host a number of animal species - including endangered
mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, and provide nutrients
to the marine food web and spawning grounds for a variety of
fish and shellfish, including several commercial species.
Mangroves are also a source of a vast range of wood and non-wood
forest products, including timber, fuelwood, charcoal, fodder,
thatch, honey and medicine, to name a few.
Mangrove deforestation threatens the survival of the
species that live in these areas and contributes to land erosion
and salinization of coastal soils.
"In many developing countries, coastal
communities rely on mangrove forests to provide fuelwood for
cooking, as well as protein in the form of fish and
crustaceans," says Ms Wilkie. "Mangroves
represent a vital resource for their daily subsistence and
should be managed carefully to avoid overexploitation."
Numerous case studies have described how
population growth in coastal areas has led to the conversion of
mangrove areas for coastal infrastructure, rice or salt
production and commercial aquaculture. But prior to the new
estimates, reliable information on the status of mangrove areas
and deforestation trends was scarce.
"Many organizations had been warning of the
destruction of mangroves, but there were limited data to back
this up at the global level," says Ms Wilkie.
"This assessment has confirmed their warnings, but also
shows that the rate of mangrove deforestation has decreased
during the past decade."
assessment builds on a 1980 survey conducted by FAO and the
United Nations Environment Programme, as well as the 2000 FAO
Global Forest Resources Assessment. The current survey covers
121 countries - compared to 51 countries in the 1980 assessment
- and is based on a trend analysis of 2 800 national and
subnational data sets. It provides revised estimates of the
world mangrove area in 1980 and 1990, a list of the most recent
reliable estimates for each country and an estimate of the
global mangrove area as of year 2000, based on analysis and
extrapolation of past data.
sources, mangrove experts, local communities and
non-governmental organizations were asked to contribute to the
study or to validate information already gathered by FAO.
The results will soon be available from an
online database on the FAO Forestry Web site. The data are also
featured in the State of the World's Forests
2003 and will be published in a series of working
papers on the summary results and on the database itself.
FAO Media Office