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Past and current extent of mangroves in the affected countries

Mangroves cover an area of around 15 million hectares worldwide, with close to 40 percent of this area found in the countries affected by the tsunami.

High population pressure in coastal areas has led to the conversion of many mangrove areas to other uses and numerous case studies describe mangrove losses over time. In the aftermath of the tsunami, many statements have been made on how the large-scale conversion of mangroves to shrimp ponds in the past exacerbated the damage by the tsunami with several sources citing the loss of 50 percent of the mangroves in the affected countries.

Scarce information exists on status and trends in mangrove areas at the regional and global level. A recent initiative by FAO aims at facilitating access to comprehensive information on the current and past extent of mangroves in all countries and areas in which they exist.

The preliminary results for the countries affected by the tsunami are shown below.

Specific information on mangroves from most countries in which they exist was submitted to FAO as part of the Forest Resources Assessment reporting (FRA 2000); the information has been extracted and analysed in order to be able to analyse recent trends in area losses and gains.

The preliminary results, which are being updated in the framework of the FRA 2005, indicates that mangroves cover an area of around 15 million hectares worldwide, with close to 40 percent of this area found in the countries affected by the tsunami:

Country Most recent reliable mangrove area estimate Mangrove area 1980 Mangrove area 1990 Annual
change
1980-1990
Mangrove area 2000 Annual
change
1990-2000
ha year ha ha ha ha ha
Bangladesh 614 500 2003 597 100 606 400 930 620 000 1 360
India 487 100 1997 506 000 492 600 -1 340 479 000 -1 360
Indonesia 3 062 300 2003 4 200 000 3 640 000 -56 000 3 160 000 -48 000
Kenya 52 980 1982 54 700 52 000 -270 50 000 -200
Madagascar 325 560 1987 327 000 320 000 -700 314 000 -600
Malaysia 587 269 1995 669 000 620 500 -4 850 572 100 -4 840
Maldives n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Myanmar 452 492 1996 531 000 480 000 -5 100 432 300 -4 770
Seychelles 2 000 1995 2 400 2 100 -30 1 900 -20
Somalia 10 000 1975 9 500 8 500 -100 7 500 -100
Sri Lanka 8 688 1992 9 400 8 800 -60 7 600 -120
Tanzania, United Rep. of 127 200 2000 152 000 139 600 -1 240 127 200 -1 240
Thailand 244 085 2000 285 500 262 000 -2 350 244 000 -1 800
Total extent 5 974 174 2000 7 343 600 6 632 500 -71 110 6 015 600 -61 690
From FAO. 2003.


The data indicate that countries affected by the tsunami have lost an average of 21 percent of their mangrove area in the period 1980 to 2000.

The largest loss in terms of area is in Indonesia, which also possess the largest mangrove area in the world. Myanmar has also lost a large area, due primarily to conversion of mangroves to rice cultivation to increase self sufficiency in food production and Malaysia has lost some both to pond culture and infrastructure development. Some countries with small areas of mangroves have also lost a high percentage of the area present in 1980, while other countries such as Bangladesh and Tanzania are reporting an increase in their total mangrove area since 1980.

The preliminary results are currently being updated in he framework of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005 and will used as inputs to the revised World Atlas on Mangroves - a collaborative effort being undertaken by FAO, the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (ISME), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Man and the Biosphere Programme (UNESCO-MAB), the United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the United Nations University - International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

Needs for action

A systematic and comprehensive assessment is needed that addresses:

  • The extent of damage and identification of areas in need of restoration
  • Mapping of past and current extent of mangroves to enable an assessment of potential sites for re-establishing mangroves