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Gone in 100 years?

It is estimated that people dependent on mangrove ecosystems may be deprived of the services in just about 100 years making life of these dependent communities miserable. This means the world may lose all its vital mangrove ecosystems in just a century’s time, if the current rate of degradation continues.

It could actually be faster than that. This loss would result in serious consequences for the local people in the form of degraded economies, impoverished livelihoods, declining human security and therefore poor quality of life for the already vulnerable coastal communities in developing countries.

While a prosperous coastal community is directly dependent on a healthy mangrove ecosystem, loss of mangroves would mean disastrous consequences to the nation and the globe as a whole. The UNEP reports that over 100 million people around the world live within 10 kilometres of large mangrove forests, benefiting from a variety of goods and services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water and protection against erosion and extreme weather events.

These ecosystem services are worth an estimated US$ 33-57,000 per hectare per year to the economies of developing countries with mangroves. However, mangroves are one of the most undervalued ecosystems in the world. There are very few studies available on the small systems and hence it is virtually impossible to quantify the value of ecosystem services of all the mangrove forests.

My own view is that it is not necessary to quantify each and every ecosystem service. The fact that millions of people and other species depend on mangroves calls for our urgent attention. As humans, even if we want to become selfish and count only our own benefits, the experience of recent cyclones must stir our minds further to know the important role mangroves play in managing cyclones, sea surges and related disasters. To understand this, we need to know the basic composition of mangrove forests.

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