Have you ever passed by a mangrove tree without giving it a second thought? Hamid Ah-kon admits he dismissed it as just another tree. However, a recent 10-day Mangrove Conservation Training with Nature Seychelles changed his perspective entirely. "I now realize how wrong I was!" he reflects.
The transformative training, specifically tailored for 11 second-year Fisheries Science students from the Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA), aimed to enhance their understanding of mangrove conservation and build technical capacities in mangrove surveying and monitoring. The students participated in classroom sessions, interactive games, and practical field activities at various mangrove sites. These included the Port Launay RAMSAR site, The Sanctuary at Nature Seychelles, and the lagoons near the Roche Caiman residential area.
Following the training, the students shared their experiences. Below are excerpts.
Exploring Mangrove Ecology
Students were guided through interactive sessions
The training kicked off with an exploration of what a mangrove tree truly is and unravelled the mysteries of the 'mangal,' the name given to the mangrove forest as a whole, Maria Monthy explains. Students were guided through sessions that revealed the global distribution of mangroves and the conditions under which they thrive.
This was followed by key ecological words to look up and discuss. Sequestration, emphasizing the mangrove ecosystem's ability to capture and store carbon, was the biggest takeaway for Ramany Padayachy. “Our climate is changing due to an increase in greenhouse gases, and mangroves sequester four times more carbon than other trees,” she says.
Into the Seychelles Mangroves
Mangroves propagation at Constance Ephelia Resort
Venturing into the mangroves was the most exciting part of the training. Each of the seven mangrove species found in Seychelles has unique adaptations to survive in challenging environments, Naila Vidot and Graig Barbe discovered.
Practical activities, such as ground-truthing with a GPS at Port Launay, added a hands-on experience. Often, this meant carving a path through tall invasive ferns and walking through the mud around the mangrove site.
“We were able to identify the characteristic root systems of the mangroves. The red mangrove, which is the most common, has stilt roots like arms. While the white mangrove is the species that grows seawards and has needle-like roots that grow out of the ground, upwards,” they said.
All is connected
Annick Capricieuse, Emilie Leon, and Rico Labrosse discussed the broader implications of mangrove conservation and acknowledged there is much to learn about other ecosystems, too.
“Coral reefs and seagrasses should be equally understood,” Emilie writes.
The importance of community partnerships in conservation was underscored by visits to the Constance Ephelia Resort and the University of Seychelles.
“We saw first-hand what is being done to restore degraded wetlands and how mangroves are propagated. Over the 10 days, we also understood and saw how urban development and pollution have shaped the mangrove areas present today,” Rico explains.
In response to pollution, Annick wishes people wouldn't dump trash in mangroves.
She added that the training also shed light on diverse conservation professions, and inspired her to think about future roles in legal and policy work, scientific research, and education.
The future is bright
Nature Seychelles' Locally Empowered Area Protection (LEAP) project has been conducting scientific research on the Port Launay RASMAR site with local and international volunteers. The SMA Mangrove conservation training aligns with the organization's mission to increase appreciation for marine ecosystems and promote bottom-up conservation.
We would like to congratulate the 11 students for their active and enthusiastic participation throughout the training,” says Corinne Julie, LEAP's Technical Manager. “They worked with the team to better understand the content, overcame land crab fears in muddy sinks, and created their own species identification document. This is just the beginning; the journey does not end here!”
“Special thanks to the Seychelles Maritime Academy for supporting the students' involvement in the training, and UniSey and Constance Ephelia for sharing their invaluable insights into mangrove conservation,” she concludes.