Mangroves in Sontecomapan Lagoon. Mangroves in Sontecomapan Lagoon, Veracruz. conabio/semar

Mangrove recovery: gains and losses

11,000 hectares recovered but over 6,000 lost or damaged

In a ceremony held on World Wetlands Day February 2, federal authorities congratulated themselves after a study they presented showed that over 11,000 hectares of mangroves had been recovered between 2010 and 2015.

The declaration was made by José Sarukán Kermez’, coordinator of Mexico’s Biodiversity Commission (Conabio), who celebrated alongside federal Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano Alamán.

It was the former who stated it was possible to recover mangroves even after they had been disturbed.

What both officials left out of their statements was that during that same five-year period, 6,407 hectares of mangrove swamps and wetlands were either lost or damaged, primarily by human activity, reported the news website Animal Político yesterday.

Government estimates in the 1980s put the coverage of mangroves in Mexico at 856,405 hectares. By 2010 the area had decreased by 91,600 hectares, or just over 10%.

Between 2010 and 2015, mangroves were recovered on over 12,000 hectares of coastal areas and and additional 1,331 hectares of disturbed mangroves recovered on their own.

In total, 13,677 hectares of mangroves were recovered during that five-year period, somewhat more than the 11,000 touted by officials.

But at the same time the loss of mangroves continued elsewhere: 1,565 hectares were completely lost and an additional 4,843 hectares suffered disturbances that put their continued existence at risk.

In the Wetlands Day ceremony, Pacchiano referred to the federal administration’s “historic investments” in reforestation and other environmental actions.

What he neglected to mention was that government data shows that increasing areas of mangrove wetlands are facing disturbances.

According to that data, mangroves recover fast when they are disturbed by natural phenomena, but when those disturbances are human in origin, there is “a degree of irreversibility.”

The state of Guerrero is an example: since 1980, 60% of its mangroves, or just under 10,000 hectares, have been lost. Between 2010 and 2015, 1,488 hectares of wetlands were destroyed, making the Guerrero mangroves the most threatened in the country.

Of the remaining wetlands area in that state, 23% is considered at risk.

On the other side of the ledger is the case of Sonora, the only state in the country that has consistently increased the area of mangrove swamps. Wetlands have grown continuously since 1980, covering an additional 1,271 hectares of coastlands since.

The story in the neighboring state of Sinaloa is also one of success. Having managed to recover close to 5,000 hectares of mangroves in the last five years, the state leads the way in mangrove recovery during that period.

Source: Animal Político (sp)

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