Mangroves in the RSGA Region
There are extensive mangrove stands in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, especially in the southern Red Sea. Mangroves are an extremely important form of coastal vegetation: their extensive root systems stabilize sediments and protect the coastline, and they enhance the overall biodiversity of marine ecosystems by providing shelter for an array of marine animals, birds and the juveniles of commercially important fish and crustaceans. The dead leaves and branches of mangroves are a source of food within the mangrove ecosystem and also offshore, such as in shrimp communities.
Threats and Issues:
Environmental conditions in the RSGA Region, such as temperature and salinity, are near the upper limits for mangrove existence, which makes them very sensitive to disturbance and can hinder their ability to recover. Mangroves are prone to degradation and removal from a multitude of developmental and exploitative activities. They are destroyed by land-filling and cleared for the construction of shrimp ponds. In coastal areas where human population is increasing rapidly, mangroves are cut for firewood and for construction. Grazing by camels reduces the height of mangrove trees, their productivity, and their reproductive capacity. The damming of rivers and wadis has reduced natural freshwater inputs to the coast, thus degrading mangrove stands. Causeways constructed across bays have reduced the tidal exchange of seawater leading to extensive mangrove death.
Degradation of mangroves has far-reaching impacts, including threatening important populations of fish and crustacean, and the other marine mammals and birds that rely on mangroves. These impacts are compounded by a lack of awareness about the importance of mangroves in the coastal and marine environments, especially the relationship between mangroves and fisheries, and by the limited use of environmental assessment procedures.
Extensive mangrove surveys have been conducted within the region, executed by PERSGA-trained regional specialists, in order to evaluate the present status of these key species and prepare the groundwork for conservation plans. PERSGA conducted in 2002 a survery programme to evaluate the status of mangroves in Djibouti, Sudan and Yemen, and to review the status of mangroves in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
These surveys have provided a substantial body of data for national inventories and provides a foundation of information against which future data can be compared to detect and measure changes that might be occurring due to natural events or human interference. The collection of baseline data has further enabled PERSGA to propose guidelines for mangrove rehabilitation, conservation and management in the region.
PERSGA compiles all data collected for its science, research and monitoring activities into a comprehensive GIS database.
Standardised Survey Methods:
PERSGA has developed a regionally-applicable and scientifically robust Standardised Survey Methodology to facilitate its monitoring of key species and habitats in the region.
As of 2001, PERSGA has conducted a series of training courses to teach specific survey methods relevant to each of its Habitat and Biodiversity priority components. The training course (Training for Standardized Survey Methods for Inter-tidal and Mangrove Habitats; Djibouti, March 2002) was also used as tools to evaluate the methods and determine their applicability to the region.
Based on the background information accumulated during the surveywork, PERSGA has developed a Regional Action Plan (RAP) for the Conservation of Mangroves in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The Plan builds on the substantial base of previous and continuing work by regional and national organizations, building on traditional beliefs and conservation practices, and covers the mangroves of all the member states of PERSGA. This Plan provides a set of priority objectives and itemised activities for the conservation and sustainable development of mangroves and associated coastal habitats in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (RSGA). More Specifically, it specifically discusses how mangrove conservation can be maximized through the following six activities: ICZM planning for mangroves; education and awareness; MPAs, ecologically sustainable mangrove utilization; impacts from shipping and pollution; and research, monitoring and economic valuation.
In addition to the Regional Action Plan, PERSGA has also worked with its individual Member States to furnish National Action Plans relating to the conservation of mangroves.
The Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden