Treehugger in Senegal: This Is the World's Biggest Tree Planting Project: 60 Million Mangroves


See a slideshow of mangrove reforestation in Senegal

The mangrove tree is quite simply an ecological superhero. It not only makes up highly productive ecosystems in tropical and sub-tropical tidal zones, but it serves as a vital renewable natural resource. It's a natural habitat for fauna and a spawning area for numerous species of fish. It helps to protect coastal communities from erosion, hurricanes and tsunamis. It's also a killer carbon sink.

Aside from its immediate ecological benefits, a mangrove forest can suck up 50 times more carbon than a tropical forest of the same size, making it a crucial ally in the fight against climate change.

But the mangrove is in trouble. Fortunately, thousands of other heroes are coming to its rescue.Up to 35% of the world's mangrove forests have been lost since 1980, many of them along the fragile African coast, and the numbers keep shrinking. They won't, if tens of thousands of Senegalese have anything to do with it.

Over the past three years, the dynamo Senegalese NGO Oceanium - helped by financial backing from French water company Danone - has employed thousands of local villagers to take back the swamps.

Last year, they planted over 30 million mangrove trees. This year, they're redoubling their efforts: the target is a record 60 million trees in three months. Treehugger has been invited to Senegal to follow along and pitch in.

Restauration of mangroves, Senegal 2009
envoyé par lespiedssurterre. - L'info video en direct.

Above, a documentary about last year's project.

The connection between mangrove loss and climate change is especially poignant in Senegal, where rising temperatures are taking a heavy toll on fishermen - whose catch feeds up to 40 percent of the country - and farmers, who are migrating in droves into the over-dense streets of capital Dakar.

The loss of mangrove forests takes its toll on fish, soil, and water, which becomes too salty to grow rice, a staple food in Senegal. There are other factors in the decline of mangroves too; I plan to be looking deeper into those during this week-long trip.

As drought deepens, mangroves die; and as they die, we lose a vital weapon against greenhouse gas. It's a feedback effect with deadly consequences. But it can be undone.

Hence the obsessive efforts to re-plant so many of them by NGOs led by Oceanium, tens of thousands of locals, and Danone, which is eager to offset the climate impact of its Evian water.

Follow this year's effort, which returns to Senegal's southern Casamance region and the Saloum river delta, on Treehugger, at Down to Earthand on Twitter at @lespiedsurterre (fr).

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