Mangrove forests are intertidal ecosystems formed by trees that uniquely thrive in waterlogged, salty conditions. Due to human activities, over 11,700km2 of mangroves have been lost since 1996. However, efforts to protect mangroves have increased as society begins to understand their real value.

The State of the Worlds Mangroves 2022 report was released by the Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA) to provide an overview of mangrove restoration efforts, how their positive climate and biodiversity impacts can be maximised moving forward and what this means for climate mitigation.

Climate and biodiversity

Experts consider mangroves crucial for addressing climate change mitigation and safeguarding biodiversity. Mangroves are powerful carbon sinks and, due largely to the waterlogged soil environment, they sequester carbon at four times the rate of terrestrial forests. Failure to prevent loss of even 1% of mangrove forests could result in the release of 0.23 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 49m cars in the USA.

Mangroves provide habitats for a variety of species. Their resources support local communities and an estimated 4.1m small scale fishermen; they are also considered to be vital nursery grounds for commercially harvested shrimp. Despite all these advantages, mangrove cover has been reducing at a rapid rate over the past few years. GMA’s 2021 report highlighted that 47% of mangrove loss was due to forests being cleared for production of commodities, including aquaculture. The insights from the 2022 report are therefore likely to shape the future of fish farming.

Restoration and the role of insurance 

The importance of mangrove restoration is clear, but investment in restoration projects is slow and flaws in execution are impeding progress. Lack of technical expertise and knowledge regarding the underlying cause of mangrove depletion in the area has also led to failed restoration; this not only wastes limited resources but also diminishes people’s faith in the restorability of mangroves. GMA and International Blue Carbon Initiative are developing a guide to restoration which draws upon scientific techniques and offers key advice on how to maximise the restoration impact.

Several factors could inhibit financing of mangrove restoration projects, including the uncertainty of financial outcomes. Insurance of projects could help address some of this uncertainty. The resilience function of mangroves has prompted initiatives to design and provide cover. AXA XL published an article highlighting the benefits of mangroves and how insurance could cost-effectively help to restore them across the Caribbean. The market for insurance and the policy structure will depend on factors such as assets covered, funding sources and beneficiaries. Although insurance policies have a huge potential to assist mangrove protection and restoration efforts, their particularities will likely vary from region to region depending on specific environmental and societal factors.