Thematic study on mangroves

Mangroves are salt-tolerant forest ecosystems commonly found along sheltered coastlines, in deltas and along river banks in the tropics and subtropics. These trees and shrubs have developed morphological adaptations to tidal environments, such as aerial roots, salt excretion glands and, in some species, vivipary of seeds.

A large proportion of coastal populations in tropical regions depend on mangroves for their subsistence, either directly through the extraction of wood and non-wood forest products, such as fuelwood, charcoal, timber, food and medicines, or indirectly through the many aquatic and terrestrial species for which these ecosystems provide nutrients and a habitat. Mangroves serve as spawning grounds and nurseries for a variety of fish and shellfish, playing a significant role in the marine food system. When mangrove forests are destroyed, declines in local fish catches often result. These ecosystems also play an important role in preventing and reducing coastal erosion, providing nearby communities with protection against the effects of wind, waves and water current. This was demonstrated during the 2004 tsunami in Asia – in locations in which extensive areas of mangroves existed, coastal villages suffered less damage. Moreover, these unique coastal forests provide other important services: conservation of biological diversity and – by trapping sediment from upland erosion – protection of coral reefs, sea-grass beds and shipping lanes against siltation.

Despite their many important uses and benefits, high population pressure in coastal areas has frequently led to the conversion of mangrove areas to other uses, including fish and shrimp farming, agriculture, salt or rice production and urban development. Mangroves have also been fragmented and degraded due to overexploitation and pollution. Numerous case studies describe mangrove losses over time, but comprehensive information at the global level is scarce. Despite past attempts to estimate total mangrove area, recent reliable information on status and trends at the global level is limited.

The FRA 2005 thematic study on mangroves was coordinated by FAO and cofunded by ITTO. It provides an overview of the current extent of mangroves, their species composition, uses and threats, and changes in the extent of mangroves over time for the 124 countries or areas in which they exist. The study aims to facilitate access to comprehensive, comparable information that may serve as a tool for policy- and decision-makers and mangrove managers worldwide. The initiative builds on FRA 1980 and on information provided for FRA 2000 and 2005, for which countries were asked to provide information on current forest area according to forest types, using their own classification systems. Since mangroves form a distinct and relatively easily defined forest type, most countries with mangroves provided specific information on their extent. An extensive literature search and inputs from national mangrove experts yielded additional information. Where recent national information was lacking, it was updated through interpretation of remote sensing data (an in-kind contribution from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre – WCMC). Local authorities and national experts played a key role in the process of gathering and reviewing the extensive country-level information collected.

The world's mangroves 1980-2005

FAO Forestry Paper 153




FAO 2007

Country profiles have been compiled into five regional reports. Click on the links below to access the reports.

Mangroves of Africa 1980-2005: Country reports

Les mangroves d’Afrique 1980-2005: Rapports nationaux




FAO 2007

Mangroves of North and Central America 1980-2005: Country reports

Les mangroves d’Amérique du Nord et d’Amérique centrale 1980-2005: Rapports nationaux

Los manglares de América del Norte y de América Central 1980-2005: Informes nacionales



FAO 2007

Mangroves of Oceania 1980-2005: Country reports

Les mangroves d’Océanie 1980-2005: Rapports nationaux




FAO 2007

Mangroves of South America 1980-2005: Country reports

Les mangroves d’Amérique du Sud 1980-2005: Rapports nationaux

Los manglares de América del Sur 1980-2005: Informes nacionales



FAO 2007

Mangroves of Asia 1980-2005: Country reports




FAO 2007

Further information on mangroves can be found at .

last updated:  Wednesday, March 19, 2008