On 2 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar’s southern coastal regions and precipitated the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. With winds reaching over 200km/h, the storm whipped up a 12ft high tidal wave that surged up the densely populated Irrawaddy delta. Estimates believe that close to 140,000 people died. Meanwhile, the damage to property, livelihoods, and the local environment was impossible to quantify.
The cyclone was a stark reminder of the massive dangers of climate change. But there was one specific factor that made the catastrophe so much harder to stomach: the death toll had been so high because, according to experts, many parts of the Irrawaddy Delta had been stripped of mangrove forests. This meant there was no natural barrier to protect villages from the devastating storm surge.
It’s extremely worrying, therefore, that twelve years later these vitally important mangrove forests are still being taken for granted. Sustainability is not something that can be ignored.
The magical mangrove
A mangrove tree by itself might seem a tad innocuous. But mangrove forests, which are the only forests that grow in saltwater, perform several vital ecological functions at the same time. For starters, they absorb CO2 and other greenhouse gases incredibly well and slow down climate change. What’s more, they provide a precious environment for wildlife and create an effective screen against forces of nature. Studies have shown, for example, that areas protected by mangroves suffered far less during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Despite this evidence, however, mangrove forests are still under assault across the world. In fact, they’re currently disappearing three times faster than the rainforests. Some mangrove species are even on the verge of disappearing altogether. That’s why the sustainability experts Worldview Impact Foundation, in partnership with our good selves, have been stepping up their efforts to help.
The ‘green lungs’ of our planet
Did you know that mangroves capture up to five times more CO2 than rainforest trees? They absorb this climate changing carbon dioxide and lock it away in their soil. They also filter water and protect coral reefs and seagrass – thus creating ecosystems that are essential for the survival of numerous species.
As the all-important buffer between land and sea, fish frequently choose to lay their eggs amongst the mangroves. They provide a perfect nursery by providing both shelter and relative safety as baby fish slowly become established. It’s estimated that seafood production is increased by up to 50% by healthy and vibrant mangrove forest environments. This helps local people looking for a reliable food source.
On the ground
As ecological allies that suppress global warming, it’s incredibly important for us humans to embrace sustainability and nurture mangrove forests. It’s good news, therefore, that there’s already a small army of people on the ground in Myanmar sourcing seedlings, scaling up planting programmes, raising the trees, and protecting them. These hand-planting projects not only help the environment; they also foster close ties with local villagers.
Worldview Impact Foundation is also literally ‘propelling’ mangrove regeneration in hard-to-reach areas. Rather than sending teams of humans, they’ve been testing tree planting drones which can fire approximately 100,000 seedpods per day at a rate of two per second. This challenge was in partnership with BioCarbon Engineering and Ecofriend World, who aim to plant a marvellous one billion mangroves by 2050.
Doing our bit
Worldview Impact is a non-profit international organisation dedicated to battling climate change. They also help to create sustainable livelihoods and support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Mangrove planting does this by fighting poverty and hunger, conserving and sustainably using marine resources, and restoring and managing those all-important forests.
So where do we come in to all this? It’s simple. Our agreement with Worldview Impact is to plant one precious mangrove tree for every new customer. So far we’ve planted over 20,000 burgeoning mangroves, which will absorb 2,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. Just think how much carbon we could lock away if all estate and lettings agents made the same pledge …
Want to contribute?
If you’d like to know more about Worldview Impact Foundation’s sustainability initiatives, you can start by clicking here. Or you can help in the fight against climate change by partnering with us. The more referrals we get, the more new trees get planted in Myanmar.
In the meantime, here are a few more amazing facts about those magical mangroves:
- Mangroves forests cover more than 137,000 square kilometres worldwide (roughly the size of Greece).
- 1 hectare of mangrove soils can store 10.7 - 9.4 tonnes of carbon per year
- Just one single mature mangrove produces enough oxygen for four people
- Mangrove forests occupy just 0.5% of world coastlines but still manage to store 10-15% of global costal carbon
- Environmental economists have calculated that one hectare of mangroves (approximately 2500 trees) produces a total economic value of $189,600 per year