Image credit: WWF Deutschland
After the big Tsunami of 2005, there was renewed interest in protecting Mangrove swamps and other coastal ecosystems, not just for their conservation value—but for their role in buffering the effects of tsunamis on human populations. With the Japanese tsunami fresh on our minds, the topic of coastal conservation and the pressures of development is a timely topic once again. I've just come across a fascinating video of just how important mangroves can be in protecting populations, and in providing valuable eco-system services, food and jobs to the surrounding populations. While mangroves are not a dominant ecosystem in Japan, they do exist in fragmented areas primarily in the South East of the country. According to Dawn.com, there is some evidence that mangroves and coastal buffer zones helped to greatly reduce the impact of the tsunami. But whatever the specifics of this particular disaster, it is a powerful reminder that the ocean holds great power, and that we need to be wary of that power as we consider development in all of our coastal regions.
But really the story is about so much more than disaster relief, or even ecological conservation. The real significance here—as shown in the video from WWF below—is that the mangroves and other ecosystems provide priceless resources, jobs and services to we humans. We take them for granted at our peril.