Rehabilitating Mangroves in the Philippines

Planting mangroves in the Philippines

Mangrove forests are one of the most severely threatened and undervalued ecosystems on Earth. They provide a wide variety of ecosystem services currently valued globally at US$1.6 billion. For many coastal communities, mangrove ecosystems provide livelihoods, essential sources of protein and coastal protection. Compelling evidence suggests that mangroves play an important role in climate stabilisation, possessing a carbon storage and sequestration potential considered to be greater than that of tropical forests.

Mangroves are being cleared at an alarming rate and there are numerous threats to these forests, including; land development, pollution, deforestation for fuel and climate change. One of the major reasons for the loss of mangroves has been to establish fishponds for aquaculture. It has been estimated that since 1980 between 20 and 35% of global mangroves have been lost, with current losses around 1% per year. The last IUCN assessment highlighted that more than one in six mangrove species are currently under threat of extinction.

ZSL’s mangrove work is currently focused in the Philippines, where over 50% of mangroves have been lost. The recent super-typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) has highlighted the vital role mangroves play as nature’s bioshields for vulnerable coastal communities. ZSL is working to protect the remaining mangroves and restore lost forests, especially through fishpond reversion, helping to ensure greater food security, improved protection against natural disasters and increased household incomes for local communities. 

Rehabilitating Mangroves

ZSL started its mangrove rehabilitation work in 2007 through the Community-based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project (CMRP), with the aim of increasing coastal protection, food resources and diversifying livelihood options. This was achieved through empowering local communities to protect remaining mangrove forests and developing science-based methods for communities to rehabilitate lost forest sites. Over a four year period, close to 100,000 mangroves were planted, with the rehabilitation of 107.8 hectares of mangrove forest well underway. This project resulted in manuals that provide detailed biological and socioeconomic guidance on community-based mangrove rehabilitation and on fishpond reversion to mangroves.

Fishponds to mangroves

In the Philippines, most mangrove forests were lost due to the creation of fishponds for commercial fish and shrimp farming. Often these fishponds are then left abandoned and by law, this should mean they are returned to the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources for reversion. Unfortunately this rarely happens. ZSL has been working to have these Fishpond Lease Agreements (FLAs) cancelled and new healthy mangrove forests to be cultivated at these abandoned pond sites. Our focus has been in Panay, Philippines, which has the highest area of fishponds in the Philippines. To date, over 55 hectares of fishponds have been rehabilitated to mangroves. We have developed a technical manual demonstrating methods for fishpond reversion. 

Mangrove ecotourism

ZSL helped establish a mangrove eco-park in Panay, Philippines:  The Kantunggan It Ibajay Eco-park in Aklan has over 1km of boardwalks for visitors to explore the extraordinarily diverse mangrove forest and associated wildlife. Highlights of this eco-park are the centuries old mangroves in the centre of the forest which are over eight metres in diameter. This eco-park is managed by local community groups and helps raise awareness of the importance of mangroves, while providing valuable additional income for the local communities who manage the park. A second mangrove eco-park is under construction in Pedada, Ajuy, which is also on Panay island.  

Mangroves in Marine Protected Areas

ZSL is taking a new approach by integrating mangroves into marine protected areas (MPAs). Current MPAs are largely focussed on coral reefs with the average size on an MPA in the Philippines of between 10-30 hectares. By adopting a strategy of combining mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs the average size of these MPAs has increased to around 400 hectares. So far ZSL have successfully integrated mangroves into six MPA sites in Panay and Bohol.


Project information

IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group

Established in 2013, the IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group (MSG) aims to support mangrove research and conservation projects by bringing together experts in the field to share their knowledge. Hosted by ZSL, the group aims to assess the conservation status of mangroves; identify, quantify and prioritise threats; and develop plans to conserve the most threatened species and habitats.

In 2014, ZSL and the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group are organising a symposium. 

People involved

Dr Heather Koldewey overseas ZSL-Philippines, with Glenn Labrado the ZSL-Philippines Country Manager.

Dr Jurgenne Primavera is ZSL’s Chief Mangrove Scientific Advisor and Co-chair of the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group.

Louise Baldwin is the Philippines’ Project Co-ordinator and programme officer  for the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group

Partners and sponsors

Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Bureau of Aquatic Resources

Kindly sponsored by: Big Lottery Fund; GIZ ACCCoast initiative; Waterloo Foundation; Darwin Initiative; International Institute of Rural Reconstruction  (IIRR); Philippines Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation 


IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group logos

The recently established IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group, aims to support mangrove research and conservation projects by bringing together experts in the field to share their knowledge. Hosted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the group aims to; assess the conservation status of mangroves; identify, quantify and prioritise threats; and develop plans to conserve the most threatened species and habitats.

ZSL's team of mangrove researchers have recently published a 'Manual on Community-Based Mangrove Rehabilitation'. Please see the links below for the full manual.

Published by: Zoological Society of London, United Kingdom

Copyright: ©2012 Zoological Society of London

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