Gazi Bay, Kwale District, Kenya — Mangrove forests are among the most productive wetland ecosystems on Earth. These tropical coastal woodlands provide crucial habitat, protect coral reefs from sedimentation, and, as demonstrated by the tsunami of 2004, play a critical role in protecting tropical coastlines.
They are also one of the most threatened habitats. Historically, mangrove forests lined three-quarters of all tropical and subtropical coasts. Today, less than half of these forests remain, and an estimated two percent more are degraded each year for firewood, building materials, coastal development, and industrial shrimp fisheries.
The community of Gazi Village, on the south Kenyan coast, are replanting the mangrove forests and examining the ecosystem dynamics of replanted mangrove forests with the direction of Dr Mark Huxham, Dr James Kairo, Dr Martin Skov, and Dr Bernard Kirui.
In addition to planting mangrove seedlings, Earthwatch scientists, volunteers and local villagers help monitor the effects of these plantations on rates of beach erosion and on the animals, particularly crabs and fish, dependent on them.
The results will benefit the local fishing community, which relies on mangrove forests for wood products and fish habitat. This important project is also contributing to global efforts to restore dwindling mangrove forests and combat the effects of rising sea levels, as well as providing the first ever data on the use of mangrove forests as carbon sinks.