Mangrove conservation in western Madagascar: Vulnerability Assessment

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > West Indian Ocean > Madagascar

Summary

The national vulnerability assessment workshop identified mangrove areas around Madagascar which are key priorities for climate-change-related conservation action.

The project will assess the vulnerability to climate change of the mangroves in the Tsiribihina and Manambolo areas which
have the most expansive and developed mangroves in the country. This will contribute to the long term welfare of the western coastal communities and the survival of the region’s exceptional biodiversity.

Background

Madagascar has the highest surface area of mangroves in the Eastern African region. Mangroves in Madagascar are the breeding grounds for several globally threatened species, including the endangered Madagascar teal (Anas bernieri) and the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides.

They are also nurseries for a wide range of commercially and artisanally important fish, crustaceans and mollusks which are important to both numerous local western coastal communities and the country’s fisheries, one of the primary industries in Madagascar.

Mangroves are under increasing pressure as terrestrial forests dwindle, Agricultural lands are fully occupied elsewhere leading to migration into once undisturbed mangroves. The reduction in terrestrial forest cover has led to more and more harvesting of mangrove timber which, at the same time, is increasingly prized for its construction versatility, value as charcoal and resistance to parasites. The search for new agricultural lands has led to locally extensive clearing of mangroves. This increasese the risks of negative ecological and humanitarian impacts through flooding as sea levels rise.

The Tsiribihina River is one of the country’s largest water courses. Its delta on the mid-western coast constitutes one of the most extensive blocks of mangroves in Madagascar. Mangroves extend some 20-50 km to both north and south of the main delta, in association with smaller water courses. The mangroves on the Manambolo estuary and on neighbouring rivers are equallys extensive as those of their more southern neighbour, the Tsiribihina. Habitats, including deciduous forest, lakes and mangroves also occur in this region, but the area has a series of lakes that, along with the neighbouring mangroves, form one of the most important conservation areas for aquatic birds.

The management of three blocks comprising 10.549ha within these mangroves has been legally transferred to local communities, and the ecological integrity, productivity and resource-base have been stabilized. The mangroves of the Tsiribihina delta are earmarked to be part of the new multi-use and multi-ecosystem Central Menabe protected area. This relatively large conservation area is fully supported in the Menabe Region Action Plan and development strategies, particularly as forest resources have been historically reduced and ecotourism is a mainstay of the region.

A priority recommendation of the national vulnerability assessment workshop was to fill gaps in knowledge on the threats from climate change to under-studied habitats like mangrove forests. Through surveys on the west coast of Madagascar, WWF proposes to initiate an assessment of key areas that have been largely omitted from previous conservation efforts.

WWF Madagascar is currently working on the west coast of Madagascar to conserve mangroves on the Tsiribihina delta, part of the Menabe-Antimena new protected area (PA). WWF will partner the National Marine Institute, Fanamby, the National Parks Service, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund and Birdlife Madagascar to assess the vulnerability and potential resiliency of these mangrove forests to climate change.

A critical challenge for coastal communities and conservation practitioners will be to develop conservation and management strategies for mangroves that work in the face of climate change. The western coast of Madagascar has the most expansive and developed mangroves in the country and will thus need to be prioritized in developing adaptation and mitigation measures against impacts of climate change because their degradation is likely to impoverish thousands of local people, with further impacts on the national economy.

Objectives

The project objective is to conduct a credible vulnerability assessment of mangroves in the Tsiribihina and Manambolo areas to provide solid baseline data for future conservation and sustainable management in the context of climate change.

i. Collect and collate all existing relevant conservation, scientific and biodiversity data on mangroves in this region.
ii. Conduct structural inventory and natural regeneration assessments to determine the status of these mangroves and record change over time using aerial photos and satellite imagery.
iii. Conduct qualitative socio-economic assessments to determine the value of and dependency of local people on mangroves and also any perceptions of local people to climate change.
iv. Assess the vulnerability and potential resilience of the Tsiribihina and Manambolo mangroves using the WWF climate witness approach - a participatory community method to identify key areas for climate adaptation measures - through joint consultative sessions with local stakeholders.
v. Map the studied mangroves to indicate their vulnerability and to support the identification of key resilient areas and restoration zones.

Solution

The goal of this project is to build the key knowledge about mangrove system in Madagascar, develop effective approaches for building resilience in this system and to work with the Malagasy government to incorporate that knowledge into conservation planning.

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