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Land Cover Applications and Global Change


Mangrove Forest Dynamics


Mangroves forests occur in the inter-tidal region between sea and land in the tropical and sub-tropical latitudes and provide important ecosystem goods and services. The forests help stabilize shorelines and reduce the devastating impact of natural disasters, such as tsunamis and hurricanes. They also serve as breeding and nursing grounds for marine species, and are sources of food, medicine, fuel, and building materials for local communities. However, the forests have been declining at an alarming rate perhaps even more rapidly than inland tropical forests and much of what remains is in degraded condition. The remaining mangrove forests are under immense pressure from clearcutting, encroachment, hydrological alterations, chemical spills, storms, and climate change.

The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Colorado State University, and USGS/Flagstaff Field Center have been implementing this project to better understand the distribution, dynamics, and role of mangrove forests in the tsunami-impacted countries of Asia. Our study region covers the tsunami-affected coastal areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka in Asia. This two year project, started in 2005, was funded by USGS Director's Venture Capital Fund (VCF). Partial funding was provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 and other natural disasters highlighted the importance of mangrove forests in saving lives and property. In the aftermath, ambitious mangrove conservation and rehabilitation programs are being initiated. However, little is known about their current distributions, and the rates, causes, and dynamics of deforestation. The overall goal of our research is (1) to improve our scientific understanding of the distribution, dynamics, and role of mangrove forests in protecting vulnerable coastal communities, (2) to investigate the impacts of the Indian Ocean tsunami on mangrove ecosystems, and (3) to provide decision makers with a tool that will help speed recovery and rehabilitation efforts and help protect coastal communities from future disasters by restoring ecological goods and services that mangrove forests provide.

We analyzed a time-series of moderate resolution Landsat data and prepared mangrove distribution maps of 1975, 1990, 2000, and 2005. We have also prepared change maps of 1975-2005, 1975-2000, 1975-1990, 1990-2005, 1990-2000, and 2000-2005 to capture spatial and temporal variations of deforestation of the region. We then identified major deforestation fronts and possible causes of deforestation.

Our vision is to extend this research in Asia and beyond focusing on the role of mangrove forests in saving lives and property form natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004. We will achieve this goal in collaboration with other initiatives such as Mangrove for the Future (MFF), and World Mangrove Atlas, being implemented by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), respectively.

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Page Last Modified: March 26, 2013