The Mangrove Ecology

Mangroves may be an environmental powerhouse, but this does not mean that mangroves are automatically spared from threats. Mangroves continue to face decline and degradation, with 35% of the world’s mangroves gone (Saurabh 2017). Regardless of the benefits humans, animals, and ecosystems reap from mangroves, it is only humane and just to protect these plant species.

Photography by Sarah Lee, Unsplash

Current and Emerging Threats

The Decline & Degradation of Mangroves

Threats Involving the Ecological

The lack of effort and initiative to conserve mangrove ecosystems can lead to the reduction of coastal water quality and marine biodiversity. Moreover, faced with detrimental human activities, marine ecosystems deteriorate due to overfishing, destructive and illegal fishing methods as well as oil spills that occur throughout the years (ISO 2015).

The loss of mangroves would have dramatic consequences for humans and nature: mangroves are habitats and nurseries for over 3000 fish species as well as crabs, shrimps and other commercially relevant species.1 Moreover, human activities are aggravating the threatening effects of climate change and global warming. Reduced mangrove area and health increase threats to human safety and shoreline development from coastal hazards such as erosion, flooding, storm waves and surges, and tsunami.2

There is an increase in aquaculture development wherein mangroves are transformed into culture ponds (Garcia, Gevaña, and Malabrigo 2013). Although this particular aquaculture production method increases the yield of any organism, it may be detrimental to the environment as it pollutes the mangrove ecosystem with liquid wastes.

Threats Involving the Sociocultural

Poor science communication maintains the dialogical struggle between stakeholders about converting private fishponds into mangrove rehabilitation sites either through reforestation or aquasilviculture. Some of the fishpond owners had been operating illegally and that most have claimants who oppose reversion because they believe that this would adversely affect their livelihood (ISO 2017).

Livelihood of the local communities are most likely to be affected with the result of the lack of mangrove conservation in such areas since fishing activities and other marine life-related activities can be the primary source of income of said groups of people.3

Stakeholders in local communities are not aware of the status of biodiversity present in their surroundings. This lack of awareness and appreciation is driving the deterioration of the coral reefs and mangrove resources. There is still a struggle to seek to raise the awareness and build local capacities, especially of the rural women, in organizational development and resource governance (ISO 2017).

Threats Involving the Political

Poor implementation of environmental care, through policy making and governance, often leads to persistent mismanagement of coastal and aquatic resources. This may eventually lead to resource depletion in the community, which will require new policies and plans by the local government, in procuring to mere the demands of the community.4

Instead of being preserved as mangrove rehabilitation sites, some of the fish ponds are illegal, abandoned, undeveloped, and underutilized despite having individual claimants. The existing fish ponds are determining factors regarding the tenurial status of mangrove areas in local communities, but such areas may encounter outdated tax declarations, which owners use to lay claims on them (ISO 2015).

Photography by Sonika Agarwal, Unsplash

Threats Involving the Economic

With poor mangrove conservation and rehabilitation, a decline in the amount of fish caught by the local communities is experienced. The deteriorating marine ecosystem affects a majority of the community members with livelihoods dependent on fishing.

Mangrove plantations were subsequently replaced by fish ponds, settlements, and port infrastructures in the interest of urbanization. With the advent of urban development efforts and programs both by public and private sectors, mangrove ecosystems may be engulfed by toxic substances and chemicals, potentially leading to loss of habitat and food sources in the long run.5

Infographic by students of the Ateneo de Manila University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

A summary of the threats involving the ecological, sociocultural, economic, and political with regard to mangrove conservation

Reaping Fruits

Conservation Benefits of Mangroves

From left to right, top to bottom: Anton Lecock, Kon Karampelas, Aaron Doucett, Wexor Tmg Unsplash

Ecological Benefits


A habitat for wildlife.

Mangroves are rich in biodiversity, with different species of birds and fish living here (WWF 2019). The branches of mangroves are used by birds as shelter from strong winds and rains or for rest (The Nature Conservancy 2020). Moreover, different marine species such as fishes and crabs inhabit and occupy the roots of mangroves (IUCN 2006).


A breeding ground for wildlife.

Mangroves also serve as a breeding ground for wildlife (WWF 2019). This marine ecosystem improves the reproduction rate of marine species fishes in particular by nursing them and providing them food (Kumar et al. 2014; IUCN n.d.).


A source of food for wildlife.

Mangroves produce foliage or leaf litter which serve as a source of food for different marine species who live and frequent these forests (Kumar, et al. 2014; IUCN 2006).


Regulates & Reduces Carbon

Mangroves can produce, absorb, and store carbon efficiently and decrease organic pollutants in the air (IUCN n.d.). This productive function of mangroves makes them an important ecosystem, significant in our battle against climate change (WWF n.d.; WWF 2020; Gilman et al. 2008).


Maintains ecological stability & balance.

The complex root system of mangrove trees or its pneumatophores keep the water clean and healthy by filtering and purifying polluted water or waste water (WWF n.d.). This productive function of mangroves is important in keeping the water clean for other marine ecosystems, such as the coral and seagrass, to function well and stay healthy (The Nature Conservancy 2020).

Sociocultural Benefits

Coastal protection. This dense forest helps soften wind blows from strong typhoons (WWF n.d.; The Nature Conservancy 2020). The roots of mangroves also help prevent coastal erosion by keeping the land packed, protecting coastal communities from storm surges by lowering sea levels and preventing the excessive flow of sea water (Kumar et al. 2014; IUCN n.d.; Gilman et al. 2008).

Uses for traditional medicine. Some species of mangroves have medicinal properties and are a good source of tannin, alcohol, and medicine used to relieve arthritis and inflammation (IUCN 2006).

Abundant in natural resources. Mangroves are rich in natural resources such as wood, charcoal, fish, mollusks, shrimps, seashells, etc. (WWF 2019; Kumar et al. 2014).

Provides opportunities for multiple stakeholder engagement. Mangrove conservation promotes and encourages the integration and collaboration of stakeholders at all levels (IUCN n.d.). Participatory stakeholder engagement involves the interaction and exchange of knowledge, practices, technologies, and resources between multiple stakeholders from the government to the fisherfolk community (IUCN n.d.; IUCN 2006).

Alleviates poverty in coastal communities. While fisherfolk communities are one of the most vulnerable and poorest sectors in the country, well-managed mangrove conservation and mangrove resource management provides them with work opportunities to engage in productive economic activities such as selling fish at the markets and doing tourism work (The Nature Conservancy 2020; IUCN 2006).

Political Benefits

Promotes networking and coalition building. Mangrove conservation programs strengthen partnerships between the different stakeholders, particularly the local community, the private sector, and the government, in their joint effort for mangrove conservation and protection (IUCN n.d.; IUCN 2006).

From left to right, top to bottom: Guillermo Bresciano, Cris Tagpua, Zeshalyn Capindo, Eduardo Casajus Gorostiaga, Unsplash

Economic Benefits

Photography by Xavier Smet, Unsplash
Food security for coastal communities.

Mangroves being a habitat for a lot of marine species such as fishes and shrimps are important to coastal communities as a source of food (Sarhan and Tawfik 2018; IUCN n.d.).

Photography by Bambi Corro, Unsplash
Produces multiple livelihood and income generating activities.

The mangrove ecosystem produces labor and livelihood for coastal communities (IUCN n.d.). For instance, being a habitat and breeding ground for more than a thousand species of fish makes this ecosystem a good source of food and natural resources for storing and selling to the markets (WWF 2019). There are a lot of coastal communities around the world relying on the mangrove ecosystem for its many economic benefits and livelihood opportunities such as fishing, trading, and tourism to name a few (WWF 2019; The Nature Conservancy 2020).

From left to right: Mohamed Sameeh, Arif Aerial, Unsplash

Not so fast!

Let’s take a short quiz and see what we’ve learned so far!


Brander, Luke M., Alfred J. Wagtendonk, Salman S. Hussain, Alistair McVittie, Peter H. Verburg, Rudolf S. de Groot, and Sander van der Ploeg. 2012. “Ecosystem Service Values for Mangrove in Southeast Asia: A Meta-Analysis and Value Transfer Application.” Ecosystem Services 62-69.

Garcia, Kristine,  Gevaña, Dixon, and Malabrigo, Pastor. 2013. “Philippines’ Mangrove Ecosystem: Status, Threats, and Conservation.” Pp. 81-94 in Mangrove Ecosystems of Asia Status, Challenges, and Management Strategies. Edited by F.-H. I. Faridah-Hanum, A. Latiff, K.R. Hakeem, and M. Ozturk.  New York, NY: Springer.

Gilman, E. L., J. Ellison, N.C. Duke, and C. Field. 2008. Threats to Mangroves from Climate Change and Adaptation Options: A Review. Aquatic Botany 89(2): 237-250.

Institute of Social Order. 2015. 2015 Annual Report. Quezon City, Philippines

Institute of Social Order. 2015. Participatory Coastal Resources and Ecological Assessment for the Facilitating Public-Private Partnership through Co-Management of a Marine Protected Area Project. Quezon City, Philippines

Institute of Social Order. 2017. 2017 Annual Report. Quezon City, Philippines.

International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2006. “Conservation Benefits of Mangroves.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (

International Union for Conservation of Nature. N.d. “Mangroves and Coastal Ecosystems.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (

Kumar, Jitendra, Vijay Kumar, K.B. Rajanna, Mahesh V., Kumar Naik A.S., Asheesh K. Pandey, N. Manjappa, and Jag Pal. 2014. “Ecological Benefits of Mangrove.” Life Sciences Leaflets 48.

Sarhan, Mahmoud and Rady Tawfik. 2018. “The Economic Valuation of Mangrove Forest Ecosystem Services: Implications for Protected Area Conservation.” The George Wright Forum 35(3):341-349.

The Nature Conservancy. 2020. “The Importance of Mangroves.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (

World Wild Fund for Nature. 2019. “In Climate Crisis, Mangroves Bring Massive Benefits.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (

World Wild Fund for Nature. 2019. “Inventing in Mangroves to Protect People.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (

World Wild Fund for Nature. 2020. “Importance of Sediment Flow for Mangrove Conservation and Restoration.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (

World Wild Fund for Nature. N.d. “Mangroves.” Retrieved July 12, 2021 (


[1] ISO Workshop 2021: Coastal Resource Management and Advocacy Workshop

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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