Mangroves Helping People and Nature
In 2004, category-three Hurricane Ivan ravaged the island of Grenada and others in the Caribbean, knocking down homes, churches, and businesses. Many were left wondering how they could safely live at the water’s edge. Ivan also hit Union Island, to the north in the Grenadines, with similar results – except for a brand new preschool, a major source of pride for the community. The school is located behind a large stand of mangroves, which served as a natural barrier to the storm’s fury.
While mangroves – or any natural or man-made barrier for that matter – cannot stop the full force of every storm, on September 6th, 2004, they slowed the impact of Ivan and helped save a school.
Beyond slowing storm surge and reducing beach erosion, mangroves provide habitat for nursing fish, birds and other marine life that help coastal communities and support livelihoods.
Partners on the Ground
The Nature Conservancy is working with the Grenada Fund for Conservation Inc., the Grenada Red Cross Society, and community members to look closely at climate adaptation strategies for Grenville, a fishing community on the northeast side of Grenada.
Grenville is vulnerable to even the smallest of storm surges, and is witnessing erosion and loss of natural habitat every day. In the past, healthy corals, and mangroves slowed waves before hitting Grenville’s beaches, providing a natural barrier for the community and important coastal resources.
Now, with the reefs degraded and the mangroves largely missing, the beaches have eroded, and important fisheries habitat has been lost, and coastal infrastructure and people are more vulnerable to impacts from the sea.
Science-Based Solutions in the Water
Two of the near term solutions identified are an experimental mangrove restoration effort at Telescope Beach, and installation of eco-engineered structures to enhance the reef height and wave protection functions. Historical data show that mangroves once thrived here and helped protect the local beach.
“Restoring mangroves and enhancing the reef in Grenville will help mitigate challenges like storm surge and sea level rise, reduce erosion, restore habitat for fish and improve water quality,” says Ruth Blyther, Eastern Caribbean program director with The Nature Conservancy.
“In the short term it also helps the community by employing people to build and install the reef structures, and to plant the mangroves, monitor the plantings and collect data about water quality. It’s a win for nature and the community.”
Protecting and Restoring Mangroves in Papua New Guinea
For tropical islands like Papua New Guinea, climate change is a very real and immediate problem – increased storms and sea level rise threaten to erode coastal areas and topple the communities living there. One critical strategy for combating these threats is to protect the mangrove forests that line many coastlines.
The Nature Conservancy is implementing the IUCN-sponsored MARSH project (Mangrove Rehabilitation for Sustainably-Healthy Forests) in two provinces of Papua New Guinea to help protect and restore vital mangrove forests:
- In Manus province, the Conservancy is working with local partners to survey communities about how they use mangroves – such as for timber and food. This knowledge will help shape conservation efforts. The Conservancy is also helping the village of Pere create a mangrove nursery to meet their goal of planting 20,000 mangroves by 2015.
- In the province of West New Britain, the Conservancy is also working with local communities on surveys and educational programs about the importance of mangroves. This work will lead directly into the development of management plans for the mangrove resources in the area.
Science and tools supporting coastal development decisions
Before the Next Storm: Helping People and Nature Adapt
See the science: Mangroves are incredible carbon stories
Ann Harvey watched as mangroves protected her school house from Hurricane Ivan. She is now a participant in the Conservancy’s program, At the Water's Edge.
Approach and mapping tools for coastal planners, helping people and nature adapt to sea level rise and other coastal hazards.
Highlights from a Decade of Partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Restoration Center.