Mangroves are important ecosystems for wildlife & human livelihoods, provide coastal protection from strong storms, and bury large amounts of carbon which is helpful to reverse the increases in greenhouse gases. Scientists are studying the ecology and benefits of mangrove forests, but a lot of that work is buried in complicated jargon and difficult-to-read graphs. Mangrove science wants to include local communities, stakeholders, and governments in the US and across the globe to understand the importance of not only our research, but the benefits of these crucial coastal ecosystems.
Our work has taken us to remote locations across the world but one trip in particular was poetically summarized by a song written (and sung) by the community leader of a region in Choco, Colombia. He tells the story about how his community is supported by the mangrove forests; supplying the wood they need to build homes and supporting the fish and shrimp they need to eat.
Globally, mangroves are facing a rapid decline because of land-use change accelerated by development pressures, along with climate change and sea level rise, resulting in a disproportionate loss of mangrove ecosystems through degradation and conversion. The reality is that in an increasingly resource-constrained world, increases in one ecosystem service or human activity typically result in the reduction in other services or activities. The continued undervaluation of ecosystem benefits perpetuates the free riding of these public goods, exacerbating the worldwide over-exploitation and degradation of ecosystems.
Our research is developing improved interdisciplinary approaches that combine aspects of physical, social, and economic sciences, with a high level of societal relevance, using novel remote sensing tools, methods, and data. This information will provide crucial support to assess the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptations for socioeconomic aspects of land-use systems that need to adapt to climate change and sea level rise.