Restoration Of Mangroves In Senegal And Climate Resilience
Mangroves: The Key To Fighting Climate Change In Senegal?
The mangrove estuaries of Casamance and Sine Saloum have long been a draw for tourists looking for a lush kayaking adventure. Mangroves’ tangled roots make the trees look like they are standing on intertwined stilts in the water. They hang over the winding waterways to make a dense and magical forest that you can glide right through.
However, over the last decades of the 20th century, climate change has wreaked havoc. Nearly 45,000 hectares (about one quarter) of Senegal’s mangroves have been lost due to drought, deforestation for timber, and water blockage due to road construction. Not only are these forests crucial for maintaining marine and aquatic ecosystems, but they are also essential for preventing soil erosion and holding back rising sea levels. They absorb excess water, protecting the land around them from becoming vulnerable to erosion. If mangroves forests are destroyed, so is the local ecosystem. The water becomes very saline, and nothing can grow.
Mangrove forests are valuable for the beauty they bring and the life they sustain – but they can also actively work to make Senegal a more climate resilient place. Therefore, their destruction is a catastrophe on many levels.
Luckily, Senegal is not simply allowing this to happen. The local NGO Oceanium has been working with Livelihoods funds to restore mangrove forests in their natural habitat. Since the year 2000, the mangrove ecosystems of Senegal have been expanding instead of contracting. Over the last 20 years, NASA scientists have noticed regeneration of mangroves in Senegal across 148 square kilometers, or 6%. 10,000 hectares of that is a direct result of replanting of 79 million individual mangrove trees. Once an area has been replanted, it can then expand of its own accord.
This project not only kickstarted Senegal’s mangrove regeneration, but it also involved 350 villages and 100,000 people, providing social mobilization for those involved. In order to maintain mangrove regeneration and not allow further destruction of mangroves, it is crucial that local communities are involved and that the people of Senegal and the world understand the importance of mangrove forests.
If the expansion of mangrove forests continues, it may very well be one of Senegal’s greatest weapons in facing climate change. Mangrove forests mitigate climate change and species loss by absorbing carbon dioxide and preserving marine ecosystems. As previously mentioned, they will also be a valuable barrier against rising sea levels that cause soil erosion.
On top of that, mangrove forests can improve food security, which is like hitting the jackpot playing the tragamonedas Chile offers. Former rice paddies that were dried up due to over salination can be restored. Depleted fish stocks will be boosted as the tangled mangrove roots provide food and shelter from predators. The roots are also home to shrimp, oysters and mollusks. Lastly, restored mangrove forests will attract more tourists who will bring more economic vitality into the country.
There are so many reasons to support the mangrove regeneration project in Senegal. Let us make sure that enthusiasm does not wane, that we continue down the path of regeneration and never again allow destruction of precious mangrove ecosystems.