Mangroves are extraordinary tropical forests that grow at the edge of the land and sea. These ecosystems stabilize coastlines, protect communities from storms, provide critical habitats for many animals, and store vast amounts of carbon. In many coastal areas, communities are still critically dependent on the ecosystem services mangroves provide. However despite their numerous benefits, mangrove forests were once considered wastelands of little value, and forests all over the world have been cleared for aquaculture, agriculture, urban infrastructure and coastal development. The result is that today, mangroves are a rare and increasingly threatened habitat. This problem is compounded by a lack of management capacity in the coastal regions where these forests remain.

If managed in an effective and sustainable manner, mangroves can provide a reliable source of income, protection, and food for local populations, alleviating poverty, contributing to food and social security, and ultimately, the economic development of the countries in which they are situated. With this vision in mind, UNU-INWEH has created a suite of activities to improve mangrove management around the world.

A major focus of UNU-INWEH’s activities has been training. Since 2004, UNU-INWEH, in partnership with UNESCO and Annamalai University, has supported a two-week mangrove training course in India. This course was designed to increase the capacity of management professionals and institutions in developing countries to undertake monitoring, research and conservation of mangroves. Building on the success of this course, this past December, UNU-INWEH partnered with several organizations to pilot a similar training course in Kenya for the Western Indian Ocean region. In addition, later this year, UNU-INWEH and The Nature Conservancy will launch an e-learning post-graduate level training course on mangroves, which will be available for free to environmental practitioners and students all over the world. Together, these training courses will not only increase management capacity in critical regions, but also help create a network of professionals from developing countries working towards improved management and conservation of mangroves.

Our work is also bridging the gap between research and policy. In 2012, UNU-INWEH launched the policy brief, ‘Securing the Future of Mangroves’. This brief provides managers and decision-makers from around the world with options for robust management and policy responses, and up-to-date information on the current status of mangrove ecosystems and their most pressing threats.

Mangrove forests have great ecological significance, both to humans and the functioning of the natural environment. UNU-INWEH’s work in this area is just one of the many ways it is helping to resolve the pressing issues which threaten the world’s coastlines.

View the infographic here to learn more about mangroves.