In the shifting tides, their stilt-like roots anchor them in mud and brackish water, as they stand tall on the boundary between land and sea. They sift out our pollution and trap sediment from land, keeping it from reaching the ocean. They prevent flooding, storm surges, rising sea levels, and erosion. They support a variety of life and are excellent at absorbing and storing carbon. Mangroves are spectacular.
However, they are under stress from coastal development, pollution, and climate change. Fortunately, the world is waking up to their importance. Every 26 July, UNESCO observes the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, and we came together to show our support. On Cousin Island Special Reserve, our staff cleaned up the patch of mangroves where during the island's coconut plantation period, the embattled Seychelles warbler once clung to life.
The mangrove stand on Cousin despite being very small are famous in conservation circles – if it wasn’t for them the Seychelles warbler could have become extinct before ornithologists raised the alarm and Cousin would not have been purchased for conservation,” says Dr. Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles’ CEO.
Cousin is not exempt from marine trash, which regularly washes up on shore. "But, during the South-East Monsoon, high tides and strong winds deposit hundreds of pieces of marine litter on one side of the island," says Chris Tagg, the island's conservation officer. "Much of it gets trapped in the mangroves and we have to remove it to maintain the integrity of this ecosystem." Staff members removed flip-flops, bottles, and polystyrene. The haul included 53 flip flops, 883 pieces of polystyrene and foam, 51 drink bottles, 15 lighters, and a toilet flush mechanism. However, Chris says that this isn't the answer. "In spite of our efforts to keep Cousin pristine, trash will continue getting into the ocean and mangroves unless we do something collectively to stop it." This trash problem is mirrored at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, where litter is cleaned up daily to prevent it from entering the mangrove ecosystem.
For mangroves day, the staff cleaned up the patch of mangroves
However, the mood at the Sanctuary was a bit more celebratory as a group of future teachers from the Seychelles Institute of Teacher Education (SITE) visited the demonstration site for an educational tour. They were on a mission to learn about how Nature Seychelles sustains outdoor learning programs with schools, and how to bring the outdoors into the classroom. The trainee teachers were conducted through the vibrant mangrove ecosystem, a result of years of rehabilitation and replanting, by staff who explained their importance to the area. They discussed possible lessons and activities for children, such as recycling, which can be experienced firsthand from the boardwalk made from recycled PET bottles. They also discussed stimulation sessions about the sights and sounds of a healthy mangrove ecosystem. "There is so much out here for our kids to see and learn, we just need to know what is available out there to bring into our classrooms," one of the trainee teachers remarked.
Discussing mangrove ecosystem lessons and activities for children
Initially, patches of two species of mangroves occurred at the Sanctuary. Under a Mangroves for the Future Initiative, Nature Seychelles was able to increase both the number and species count through a planting campaign, which saw five hundred mangroves planted by local volunteers from the community, schools, and wildlife clubs. These mangrove stands continue to spread and flourish.