Mangroves in Guna Yala, Panama. ©FAO/Serena FortunaMangrove forests are commonly found in the tropical and subtropical coastal and riverine regions of the world, with the largest percentage found between 5o N and 5o S latitude. There are approximately 136 714 km2 distributed primarily across 15 different countries according to Global Mangrove Watch data. These highly specialized forested wetland systems occupy intertidal zones and are adapted to regular inundation by a range of salinities. The term mangrove is a descriptor of function, not phylogenetic relationship, with over 50 true mangrove species belonging to 16 families that occur almost exclusively in mangrove habitats.
Mangrove ecosystems provide an array of essential ecosystem goods and services, which contribute significantly to the livelihoods, well-being, and security of coastal communities. Mangroves are recognized as an important ecosystem in the context of national and global development and environmental objectives, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. Ninety-two percent of 128 mangrove countries explicitly reference mangroves in at least one international commitment related to restoration, biodiversity and climate change.
Despite the numerous benefits they offer, mangrove forests are among the most threatened and vulnerable ecosystems worldwide. The common underestimation of their ecological and socio-economic benefits often leads to their conversion, overexploitation and degradation. Moreover, anthropogenic damages to mangrove ecosystems are being exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
Related SFM Toolbox module:
Mangrove ecosystem restoration and management