Mangroves act as natural filters

  • Mangrove deforestation occurring in New Caledonia is causing concern, and not just because the intrinsic value of the mangrove forests is being lost by the island nation.
  • New Caledonia has a booming mining industry with the country containing 30% of the world’s nickel deposits. Heavy metal extraction creates toxin –laden sediment which is washed out to sea during extreme weather events leading to water contamination and affecting biodiversity.
  • A recent study has shown mangrove forests to be an effective heavy metal sink, trapping heavy metals and providing a buffer for the ocean.
  • Deforestation is occurring faster than regeneration in New Caledonia and this practice may lead to the dissemination of accumulated pollutants.
  • Using environmental valuation techniques it would be possible to account for the loss of mangrove forests in terms of the loss of regulating services and therefore the cost of remediation of heavy metals that would accumulate in the ocean if the mangrove trees were removed. In the context of the UK, wetlands, marshes and farmland buffer strips provide similar ecosystem regulating services.

This research shows that natural systems (such as mangrove forests) can provide impor- tant ecosystem services even in a human-modified environment and their role should be fully understood before destruction or removal.

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About annaarathe

Research fellow, horizon scanning
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