World Mangrove Day: Mariarano Mangroves Project

Today, July 26th is #WorldMangroveDay!

Mangroves are one of the most important and valuable ecosystems in the world, providing a variety of ecosystem services from carbon storage and storm protection to providing shelter and habitat for a variety of species. Despite their importance mangroves are thought to be among some of the most threatened ecosystems, and in Madagascar alone mangrove populations have declined around 21% in the past 30 years.

In honour of World Mangrove Day i want to share with you an incredible opportunity i was given during my recent trip to Madagascar to get involved with some ‘real life’ on the ground conservation work. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to join some of the Operation Wallacea team during the set up of a new project working with Malagasy scientists (Anja and Angeal) and members of the local community. The project, mangrove reforestation, is a very new and exciting project for Opwall but is something that members of the local Mariarano community have been working on for many years.

The mangroves and wetlands surrounding the village of Mariarano and other villages within the Mahamavo area are beyond valuable to the local community. Providing not only food, water and shelter but also acting as an important source for income for many families, through fishing, logging and charcoal production. Over recent decades the later of these practises, logging and charcoal production, has been seen to severely impact the mangrove forests of the area. With members of the local community commenting on the visible loss of mangrove trees, as a result of logging for charcoal production, and a decline in fish and crab populations due to losses of suitable habitat for them.

In response to these declines a few members of the local community, one in particular; a fisherman from Mariarano village named the ‘Kaptain’, decided to set up a mangrove reforestation project of his own to start to combat the loss of this critical ecosystem. Just over a year ago, thanks to some Malagasy scientists, Anja and Angeal, members of the Opwall science team caught wind of this amazing work the Kaptain had been carrying out for over 6 years. Opwall saw the importance and success of this project so far and wanted to get on board straight away and provide any support they could!

Fast forwarding to this summer and i was given the chance to join the team, to see the project first hand and learn how process of mangrove reforestation actually works. As well as help in set it up so Opwall university and school students could also be involved in the reforestation. This was probably one of the most exciting things i was involved with this summer and that is saying a lot! One day the Kaptain took a few of us out on the boat for a full day to see all 3 of his reforestation sites. Showing us the progress he had made himself at all 3 sites, as well as teaching us how to reforest ourselves and the best places to set up potential new sites.

Boat used by the Kaptain during the Opwall season to conduct wetland surveys on birds and crocodiles.

The process of mangrove reforestation is possibly one of the easiest forms of reforestation i have ever seen, with pretty much 100% germination success (how incredible is that!).

The process involves the following 4 simple steps:

  1. Locate mangrove trees with seed pods that are ready to drop, usually these will have a yellow top to them. (See photo below).


2. Collect as many of these seed pods as possible!

3. Locate an appropriate area to ‘plant’ the seed pods.

4. Break off top of the seed pods and place (plant) into the ground (see photo below).


See, simple!

6-12 months growth
1-1.5 years growth

Here you can see the growth of these mangrove tree over the next few years. As long as the area remains untouched and the pods are left to grow within 6-10 years the once clear cut area will be functioning mangrove ecosystem again, able to support life once again.

6+ years growth

Thanks to the success of these practise runs and the advice and knowledge from the Kaptain and some dedicated Malagasy scientists, Opwall were able to work with the Kaptain and support him in his efforts to reforest the mangroves of Mahamavo and Mariarano. I learnt so much during the day with the Kaptain, not only about the mangrove planting but also about life for those living in that environment. I am incredible grateful to be given the opportunity to be involved in a conservation project such as this, a project that you can so quickly see results for. A project that is so important for both the environment and the local community. This project if it carries on to be as success as it is now and gains more and more support will shape the future of the ecosystem for future generations within the local community and beyond.

This is just the first of hopefully many blog posts on different elements of my time in Madagascar this year. Tune in soon for another instalment!

Till next time


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