Source: The World Bank

Date:26 July 2021

"In 2007, my father asked people to join him to plant mangroves, but only a few were interested. Now, we feel the impact of beach abrasion on our daily lives. The sand began to erode, and many of the islands around Yensawai began to disappear," said Konstantinus Saleo, an advocate for nature preservation in West Yensawai, Raja Ampat Islands, located in the eastern part of Indonesia.

For people living in coastal areas, like Konstantinus, mangroves are not just mere plants. Mangroves, which grow on the coastline and river mouths, serve as a barrier to seawater abrasion and reduce the risk of floods. They are the guardians of local homes and livelihoods.

These ecosystems provide shoreline protection from climate-related and other disasters such as storms and tsunamis and reduce flood-risks, inundation, and erosion. Indonesia's mangroves also help mitigate the impact of climate change as they store a significant amount of carbon – 3.1 billion tons – equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by approximately 2.5 billion vehicles driven for one year.

Indonesia holds 3.5 million hectares of mangroves, about 23% of the world's total, and is the most diverse with 92 true mangrove species. Unfortunately, Indonesia experiences significant mangrove loss annually. The majority of loss is driven by mangroves being converted into aquaculture ponds, mostly for shrimp, in Kalimantan and Sulawesi. The remaining loss is due to conversion to palm oil plantation and coastal development for urban expansion.

Indonesia has responded to the threats facing mangroves ecosystems

The government of Indonesia is already working to enhance the protection of mangroves, for instance by introducing spatial plans, a system for resolving land use conflicts and balancing environmental and economic considerations by delineating zones for specific uses. Similarly, the government has made substantial progress in expanding Marine Protected Areas to over 23 million hectares. According to the World Bank's Oceans for Prosperity report, extending the primary forest conversion moratorium to mangroves would be a valuable step as part of the mangroves' conservation efforts.

On top of conservation efforts, the government has set an ambitious target of rehabilitating 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024. The government has also included labor-intensive mangroves restoration as part of the country's National Recovery Program. The Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment (CMMAI) is mandated to coordinate the related ministries and agencies, including Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Mangrove and Peatland Restoration Agency to support mangroves rehabilitation across provinces in Indonesia.

"We all need to come together – the government, CSOs, private sectors, and communities – to protect mangroves for a more prosperous Indonesia" said Nani Hendiarti, Deputy Minister for Environment Coordination and Forestry

"Mangroves provide endless benefits for communities. They protect communities from the impact of climate change and generate income through ecotourism and its products, such as mangrove crabs, syrup and crackers. The carbon stored in mangroves can also be traded, and we ensure these benefits reach coastal communities to generate incentives for continued mangrove management," said Nani Hendiarti, Deputy Minister for Environment Coordination and Forestry, CMMAI. "We all need to come together – the government, CSOs, private sectors, and communities – to protect mangroves for a more prosperous Indonesia."

Citizen scientists: Leveraging the power of communities to collect national data on mangroves

In protecting mangroves, Indonesia needs accurate, integrated, and frequently updated data that can be used to track progress, prioritize actions, and communicate the value of Indonesia's coastal ecosystems. The development of mangrove health index by the Indonesian Research Institute (LIPI) is an important milestone.

In October 2020, LIPI launched MonMang, a mobile app that enables communities to collect, process, and analyze mangroves data. Leveraging communities to monitor mangroves in their respective areas is critical, given the large extent of mangroves area in Indonesia.

Communities in coastal areas can submit real-time data on mangroves to the application, bridging the gap between citizen and lab research efforts. This data is then analyzed further to help inform the mangrove health index data.

"These communities who use MonMang, they are not only researchers, but also those who care about mangrove conservation. They use MonMang to easily analyze the health of mangroves in their respective areas," said I Wayan Eka Dharmawan, Researcher, Oceanography Research Centre, LIPI.

MonMang, a mobile app that enables communities to collect, process, and analyze mangroves data in Indonesia. (Photo via worldbank.org)

The World Bank's support and commitment towards mangrove conversation and restoration

The World Bank has supported Indonesia in mangroves management through the Oceans Multi-Donor Trust Fund and the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program (COREMAP), a 20-year investment in coral reef management and research capacity. Results from these efforts have provided the groundwork for successful mangrove management, such as establishing a mangrove health index under the COREMAP program. The index can measure the quality of the mangrove ecosystem in a certain location and time.

The World Bank has also produced analytical work on mangroves such as economic valuation of the ecosystem services supplied by mangroves, technical assistance on implementing marine spatial planning, implementation of marine protected areas, and options to improve the livelihoods of coastal communities. The government and the World Bank are also exploring to do more together to enhance mangrove management and scale up mangrove restoration.

Conservation effort: People of West Yensawai preparing mangrove seeds (propagules) for planting. (Photo by Donny Fernando/National Geographic Indonesia)

Eventually, concerted efforts are needed to achieve mangrove conservation and restoration. This will support communities like Konstantinus, contribute to a green and resilient recovery in coastal areas, and help Indonesia better mitigate the impact of climate change.