Everyday is being made into a holiday. Or a special occasion.
When the word ‘holiday’ first comes to mind, I bet the first visions that appear in your mind are Christmas trees or the red decorations of Chinese New Year or maybe the fireworks on the 4th of July. But what if I tell you about the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem?
There are two reasons why it’s different from the other aforementioned holidays:
This special occasion was created to support the conservation of mangrove ecosystems, by raising awareness and promoting sustainable initiatives.
Its long name - UNESCO could have at least used alliteration.
For context, a mangrove shrub or tree is a plant that grows in coastal areas. When many mangrove trees are planted in one area, they become a mangrove forest, which is one of the most “biologically diverse and productive ecosystems” globally. But how?
First and foremost, mangrove trees can grow in various depths of salt water. Secondly, they are rich in biodiversity and act as habitats or fisheries. Over 3000 species of fish are found to be inhabiting mangrove ecosystems, as well as crustaceans and some mammals. Additionally, mangrove ecosystems benefit humanity too. Here are a list of reasons:
Timber and fuel - the density of mangrove makes the wood a valuable source of both fuel and biomass energy. Unlike other plant stems, mangrove stems are “resilient” and can burn at a faster rate.
Support and protection - mangrove trees are able to absorb and disorganise winds of high velocity or tidal surges, which prevents the demolition of plant communities. Moreover, mangrove ecosystems stabilise shorelines and land as well. As a matter of fact, it can prevent land erosion as well as both human and plant communities being hit by natural hazards.
Economy boost - mangrove forests make for popular tourist attractions, with the possibility of activities like kayaking, fishing and boat rides.
However, being located between land and sea, mangrove ecosystems tend to face the worst of both humanity’s and nature’s negative effects. For instance, it has to tolerate natural attacks or disasters, such as hurricanes and tsunamis, which break their branches and stems. Luckily, most mangrove plants stay intact due to their strong and flexible roots (they are elastic when there is pressure).
But those aren’t just the troubles they face. Fate or Future said, “go big or go home” so nowadays, mangrove ecosystems are not just facing dangerous environmental phenomena but being increasingly vulnerable to anthropogenic devastation. Harm initiated by humanity. Apart from being attacked by natural hazards, mangrove ecosystems are affected by man-made hazards too, like crude oil spillages or lighting fires or unsustainable area development and infrastructure. Urbanisation is a main driver of mangrove loss; human populations degrade mangrove trees. It’s safe to say, the problems mangrove ecosystems are facing has reached a certain degree of severity to the point that they have to be faced by us as well.
The International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem started in 2015, on the 6th of November. During the 38th General UNESCO conference, it was decided that 26th of July would be the day to promote and aid the diverse ecosystems. Ever since then, multiple fields of action have been established to drive mangrove protection and enhance commitment and cooperation between communities.
Implement a goal for mangrove protection in international governing or political bodies and agendas - several international organisations (IUCN. WWF, etc.) have come together to support a goal that targets to increase mangrove habitat 20% over current extent by 2030. They also aim to integrate the protection of mangrove ecosystems into international agreements or relevant political agendas, as to raise awareness on a large and global scale.
Knowledge sharing - The IUCN writes, “to foster synergies, existing mangrove protection efforts of relevant stakeholders such as the GMA will be supported.” Exchange of information between the collaborating organisations will be encouraged and regarded as a major contribution. The GMA has even established an online platform (the GMA platform hub), in which it allows people simplified access to information as well as the collection of more.
Spreading the best practices - Along with gathering information and raising awareness, the cooperation aims to help develop local, national and regional capacities as well as integrate regional networks and mangrove protection into national development.
As of now, that is what is being done currently by large-scale organisations on a large scale. However, here are some things you could do to contribute to the effort too:
Support local or nearby conservation and protection organisations by donating or volunteering.
Live sustainably when and if possible.
Raise awareness or educate others.
In conclusion, this special occasion teaches us a few things. First, it’s vital we be concerned about the future of our ecosystems and second, it takes more than just a voice to make change. It takes science, development, policy, education and unity too. But most importantly, we shouldn’t let this prospect of this one special day distract us from consistent activism. Just because one day was assigned to help a cause, it doesn’t mean we should only do our activism for one day. Everyone should be consistent in taking action. No matter how subtle or expressive, we should continue.