Mangroves have been identified to be among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They provide habitats for both marine and terrestrial organisms as well as support essential human services. However, high dependence of humans on these systems is leading to significant transformation of mangrove ecosystems and reduction in their ecological functions and services, including fisheries. Mangroves continue to be one of the highly threatened ecosystems receiving pressure from both anthropogenic and natural processes and declining by 1 - 2 % per year (Valiela, Bowen & York, 2001).
This research seeks to evaluate the impact of environmental degradation on coastal ecosystems through an integrated ecological health assessment. Specific objectives will be to:
- Undertake species inventory of mangroves and comparatively assess the implications of biophysical and anthropogenic factors on mangrove health.
- Analyze soil and vegetation dynamics on mangrove growth and productivity in intact, degraded and replanted mangrove forests.
- Detect and quantify major changes through time in the community structure and health of mangroves.
- Develop future scenarios for mangrove sustainability based on integrated ecological and socioeconomic drivers and develop locally appropriate monitoring schemes or indicators for continued assessment of mangrove health.
The research will draw on a broad range of qualitative and quantitative techniques to systematically collect, analyze and present information relative to the ecological health of mangrove ecosystems. The findings of the study are expected to inform coastal managers on services of mangrove conservation and fill in scientific gaps for policy making. The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission and other relevant stakeholders, will find this study crucial to the development of programs and policies for the protection and conservation of mangrove forest in particular and the management of coastal Wetlands at large.