Following UNESCO’s sound track record in the conservation, restoration and scientific research of mangrove ecosystems, the Organisation’s General Conference proclaimed in 2015 an International Day specifically for Mangrove Ecosystems.
The celebration has been an opportunity to shed light on the utmost importance of these ecosystems for people, because of their role in protecting coastal zones and small islands from ocean surges, erosion and other hazards, their high marine productivity and immense carbon sequestration capacity, as well as their important ecosystem functions and economic services.
Message from Dr Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, on the occasion of International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems, 26 July 2020
UNESCO has not only contributed to this understanding through its participation on major international conferences, scientific interventions and publications, such as the World Atlas of Mangroves, but also promoted numerous actions in the field through the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and Natural World Heritage sites, such as Ranong Biosphere Reserve in Thailand. After a history of predatory harvesting and mining, the area has been subject to extensive restoration in the past years.
The list of projects goes further, ranging from disaster preparedness initiatives in the Sundarbans in India, the world’s largest mangrove forest with millions of people relying on its resources for a living, to assessments of indigenous and local knowledge-based loss and damage adaptation in the mangrove islets of Utwe Biosphere Reserve in Micronesia, a Small Island Developing State.
Therefore, on the occasion of the International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems in 2020, I invite you to:
Celebrate, alongside UNESCO in anticipation of the beginning of the International Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030.
Let us take action. Despite their immense importance to our own wellbeing, there is still a lot to do in order to stop the continuous loss of mangrove habitats. Based on science, with the support of environmental education and community involvement, we must conserve, restore and promote the sustainable use of mangrove ecosystems. Strengthening coastal UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and establishing new ones is a way to keep what we have and restore what we have lost.
Let us work together. Our ambitious goal can only be achieved with the support of all stakeholders, including government authorities, academic institutions, nature conservation bodies, schools, communities and the private sector. From 2021, we will develop dynamic concerted actions to generate holistic cooperation for large-scale positive change. Let us jointly contribute to this goal and conserve and restore mangroves, supported by a process of socio-ecological monitoring.
We have to do much more to address the ongoing environmental crises that have worsened over the years and decades. It would also be a major mistake to leave youth behind, as has been done before. These environmental crises will not go away by themselves – action is needed and we need to work together.
We sincerely hope that you will assist us to improve the health and resilience of mangrove ecosystems throughout the world. Please get in touch with UNESCO. We need your technical, in-kind, moral and financial assistance to enable us to take the needed action.