Key findings from the 3rd Mekong Mangrove Forum
Mangroves are vital blue carbon ecosystems that have been damaged and degraded worldwide. The mission to preserve what remains and restore what we have lost is critical for environmental values, the communities that depend on these ecosystems as homes and economic resources, and indeed for humanity as we all rely on carbon sinks to curb the climate crisis.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and sensible safety precautions, the 3rd Mekong Mangrove Forum was held online early in October. The organizers included UNESCO, UN Redd Programme, Manfred Hermsen Stiftung (MHS), Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Shenzhen Mangrove Wetland Conservation Foundation (MCF) and Dr. Muhamad Ajmal Khan Institute for Sustainable Halophyte Utilization (ISHU). Young media and IT professionals also participated to make the event and every single contribution concise and to the point, as well as to ensure a diversity of entertaining contributions.
The forum was made possible thanks to the contributions and support from singer-songwriter Charlie Winston, International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (ISME), Mangrove Action Project, Succow Stiftung, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), Aquatic Ecosystem and Health Management Society (AEHMS), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific (RECOFTC), Mongabay, Global Environment Institute, SEE Foundation, BORDA South East Asia, Everland, Ocean Foundation and ARAMCO. Many of these parties provided valuable technical and intellectual input, and all of them mobilized their networks.
A multi-disciplinary set of presentations highlighted the need to conserve and restore blue carbon ecosystems, as well as new opportunities for action and partnership approaches. Sadly, it was necessary to point out again, mangrove loss is still a serious problem in many countries. This has to stop.
A presentation from Myanmar highlighted the urgent need to conserve mangroves in the country better, possibly by establishing a new UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the coastal lowlands.
Two contributions from China and Saudi Arabia highlighted how agencies in these countries recognized the massive loss of mangrove ecosystems, and how they had taken successful action on mangrove conservation supported by science, the private sector and community involvement, significantly redressing previous loss through large-scale restoration programmes.
A new element at this event included the relatively recent annual celebration of World Mangrove Day, and the intensified involvement of the private sector and the general public.
UNESCO has developed an open science online platform “QUEST4ACTION”, which was made available to the organizers, supporters and other partners, all of whom have important information on mangroves to be shared. QUEST4ACTION has a mechanism to promote emerging green economies by augmenting knowledge, networking and skills for good environmental management, with a focus on solving ongoing global crises related to the Sustainable Development Goals, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution and water-related calamities. The platform includes event announcements and information, a survey, quotes, a newsletter, a blog and a media library.
A new book series, spearheaded by ISHU in Pakistan and published at Springer Nature in the Netherlands, ‘Blue Carbon Ecosystem for Sustainable Development’, was presented as new medium for high quality scientific publications dealing with conservation, restoration and scientific research into blue carbon ecosystems.
Almost 600 people registered for the event, and more than 300 participated online, with an additional 10 people on the in-person panel in Bangkok.
Viewers were encouraged to contribute to action on mangrove conservation by celebrating World Mangrove Day, and utilizing and contributing to QUEST4ACTION, and by supporting the World Network of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and Natural Heritage Sites.
The private sector and the general public are also encouraged to get involved to form coalitions to foster nature-based solutions with conservation professionals.
Experienced professionals should mentor young professionals to become future mangrove managers, since there are simply not enough young mangrove specialists around – we need more.
QUEST4ACTION should function as an information platform, supporting the coordination of partners in mangrove conservation in and beyond the Mekong Sub-Region. The organizers will soon discuss how best to follow up ahead of the next major forum in 2021. At that meeting, UNESCO and our partners hope to report significant and tangible success on conservation and restoration.
Main photo credit: ©Shutterstock/Amvi Jovas