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Benefits Of Mangroves Forests Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2553 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The general distribution of mangrove forests are in both tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world with them only being found at latitudes of 25oN and 25oS of the equator and in as high latitudes as 32 oC which is in 117 countries (Barbier & Cox 2003) where the sea surface temperature does not get lower then 16oC because they cannot withstand freezing temperatures. According to literature, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s mangrove forests are found in 15 countries (Giri, et al 2011).

The proportions of mangrove forests found throughout the world are as follows (Giri et al 2011):

Asia: 42%

Africa: 21%

North/Central America: 15%

Oceana: 12%

South America: 11%

Mangrove forests inhabit tidal areas which include estuaries which receive a somewhat indirect tidal influence and marine shorelines which receive direct tidal influences. The forest is flushed by seawater which is brought in by high tide that inundates the forest floor for an extended period each day and at low tides the water recedes. Due to evapouration, the soil salinity becomes concentrated and raises to high levels (NOAA 2010).

Benefits of mangrove forests

According to Ronnback (1999) some of the products that can be had from mangrove forests are as follows:

Fuel which includes firewood, charcoal and alcohol

Construction material such as timber for scaffolds and heavy construction, Beams, poles, flooring, panelling, etc.

Fishing: poles for fish traps, fish attracting shelters, fishing floats, fish poison and tannins for net and line preservation

Food and beverages: fish, Crustaceans, Molluscs and Other fauna. Vegetables from propagules, fruit and leaves, Tea substitutes,Alcohol,Vinegar and Fermented drinks

Household items: Furniture,Glue,Wax,Household utensils, Incense and Matchsticks

Textiles and leather: Fur, skins, Synthetic fibres (e.g. rayon),Dye for cloth and Tannins for leather preservation

Other products very useful products that can be harvested from mangrove forests are:

Fish, shellfish and mangrove roots for aquarium trade

Medicines from bark, leaves, fruits and seeds

Fodder for cattle, goats and camels




Raw material for handicraft

Cigarette wrappers

Ecosystems services obtain from the mangrove resource are as follows (Ronnback 1999):

Acts as a natural sea defence

Provides biophysical support for coastal ecosystems

Provides biological regulation of ecosystem processes and functions

Production of oxygen

It functions as a carbon sink so it will have an impact on local and global climate

It sustains the livelihood of global communities

Heritage, cultural, spiritual and religious values

Educational and scientific information

Recreation and tourism

Statement of the Problem

In the years gone by mangrove forests were being increasingly destroyed by persons that are seeking a livelihood or just see the mangroves as a cheap and readily available fuel source. This leads to each one of these so called “users” to try to exploit this resource to their maximum benefit and cannot be prevented from doing so (free rider problem) because this resource is what we call “common property” which further contributes to the destruction and degradation of mangroves since there is no defined ownership or responsibilities towards the resource. In recent years many countries especially developing countries have begun to increase their economic activity in pursuit of development from which the pollution negatively affect the mangroves either directly or indirectly.

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Causes of mangrove degradation and destruction

Negative Externalities

Firstly, we know that a negative externality occurs when an individual, a group or firm makes a decision that only makes consideration for direct costs of production and not the costs of pollution caused by the consumption of the good and services produced i.e. they make a decision to produce certain goods and services which negatively affect third parties and the environment in the form of pollution whether it be air, water, etc. This pollution in some cases are unregulated which causes market inefficiency because the cost of pollution cause by the consumption of goods and services will not be reflected in the market price proposed (Helbling 2012).

In the case of mangroves, there are a number of activities produce negative externalities that affect this ecosystem and cause extensive degradation and destruction. Some of the main ones are as follows (Kathiresan 2012):

Agricultural expansion and encroachment e.g. vast expansion of aquaculture farms that produce shrimp in countries such as Honduras, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, et cetera. This is also a result of increase population growth and the demand for food which requires more land to keep up with this demand so in essence its land scarcity that causes the encroachment into the mangrove forests and the land to be converted.

Urbanization e.g. in Haiti mangrove mudflats are being cleared to build homes

Cutting for timber, fuel and charcoal e.g. in Haiti vast areas of mangrove forests are decertified by poor farmers desperately trying to making a living from charcoal making

Prevention of freshwater flow and tidal flow e.g. in Guyana when the Berbice River Bridge was first constructed, it cut off some of the tidal flow of water to a section of the mangrove forest through which it passes which caused part of the forest to start dying off

Pollution e.g. in Guyana haphazardly disposed plastic bottles used in the beverage industry end up in the drains and make the way out into the sea and are washed back up on shore and are trapped in the mangrove forests where they accumulate to very large amounts and cause extensive pollution

This negative externality problem can also be as a result of unallocated property rights (Schenk 2002). Even Though the mangrove resource common property status would be changed through regulation, the fact remain that the air above the mangroves and the water surrounding them (both surface and ground) are still considered as common property so anyone that are involved in economic activities cannot be told not to pollute the air over the mangrove or not to pollute the surface and ground water resources beneath the mangroves because in actuality no owns them; hence the surrounding resources will collapse as described in “the Tragedy of the Commons” (Hardin 1968).

When the air and water (surface and ground) are polluted they will cause a great amount of degradation and destruction to the mangrove forests which will cause them to reduce in area. This has been so extensive in some areas of the world; those areas which once had mangroves are today completely without because of all the unregulated negative externalities cause by economic activities over the years (Baten 2009).

Common Property

Common property is basically any resource that is considered shared property or have no specific ownership or property rights and this includes a wide range of natural resources along with the goods and services that can be derived from them (Wade 1987).

In many countries the mangrove forests are considered as common property in which a lot of individuals use the mangrove forest as a means of making a livelihood by harvesting its various products such as wild meat, timber, fish, shrimp, et cetera. According to Hardin (1968) in an essay titled “The Tragedy of the Commons” from which he basically emphasized that every individual using the resource (in this case the mangrove forest) will seek to maximize his/her benefits that are being derived from the forest and as result of this the resource will be doomed to overuse which will cause the ecosystem to become depleted and eventually collapse.

This problem is evident in many countries worldwide especially in the third world countries where people consider harvesting the timber from mangrove forest is a cheap and affordable source of energy so this leads to widespread degradation and destruction (Scherr and Yadav 1996). For example in Guyana, mangrove timber was used as a source of fuel in cremation and other religious ceremonies. This was also practiced among the Hindustani community in Suriname.


Negative Externalities

The problem of negative externalities can be solved by the parties that are involved and one of the most common ways of doing this is through a political process that is called a tacit agreement. In this system, “governments are elected that represent the citizens and to come to compromises in certain interests” (Hussain 2011).

In the case of the mangroves, what happens is that governments pass laws and regulations to address the negative externalities that affect the mangrove forests e.g. in countries such as Guyana, Fiji, et cetera there has been implementation of mangrove management plans that set standards, targets and processing requirements as it relates to mangroves so that destruction and degradation will be reduced. This is what is known as “Command and Control Regulations” which also includes environmental taxing reforms (Pigouvian taxes) where each unit of pollution is taxed (Hussain 2011) e.g. environmental tax on plastic bottles used in the beverage industry of Guyana tradable pollution permits or the creation of markets for ecological services similar to those that are used in Europe.

Another strategy that can be used is through bargaining in which stakeholders can come together and come to common grounds to bring about and efficient outcome without government intervention which would put stricter sanctions on the use of the mangrove resource and this is known as the “Coase Theorem” (1960). This was put into practice in Jamaica to reduce the rate of deforestation of the mangrove forests as well as other forest types on lands that are privately owned.

Common Property

According to Hardin (1968) and others suggested the most likely solution to “The Tragedy of the Commons” is to impose some form of regulation on the small scale livelihood activities that utilize this natural resource since it would be in the best interest to society for this to be done. This regulation is also needed because if this ecosystem collapses, there will be a great cost that will be bourne by all of society since the many ecosystem services such as coastal protection, erosion protection, et cetera will be lost.

In Guyana, the common properties status of mangrove was somewhat eliminated by designation the responsibilities of the mangrove resource to the Guyana Work Services Group (WSG) which have responsibility for sea defences and this include the mangrove resource (Guyana Mangrove Action Project 2011).

Regarding the legislation that was needed to make this solution more efficient, a legislative review indicated that mangrove protection to more will be more efficient when “loopholes” are closed. Fortunately the legislative framework for immediate protection already existed and as it was within the power of the Minister of Agriculture to declare any tree a protected species and this was done (Guyana Mangrove Action Project 2011).

On January 29, 2010 the Minister of Agriculture amended to Regulation 17 of the Principal Regulations by the substitution of the following (Guyana Mangrove Action Project 2011):

“Protected Trees” 17. (1) “No bullet-wood tree or red, black or white mangrove trees shall be felled without first obtaining the permission in writing of an authorized forest officer not below the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Forests” (GoG 2009) so this effectively listed the mangrove as a special category under the GFC’s code of practice.

Rangers called mangrove wardens were also trained and hired then stationed in a newly established mangrove management units which has the responsibility to regulate any activities taking place within the mangrove forests. Since the implementation of this plan, there has been a positive response in the acreage of the mangroves forest. There has actually been an increase in the area of mangrove forests on Guyana’s coast and this has been possible through revegetation and afforestation programmes (Guyana Mangrove Action Project 2011). There has even been natural mangrove regeneration in areas where there hasn’t been any growth in many decades because of the unregulated usage that was previously allowed.


In the solution that was used to curb the negative externalities that affected the mangrove resource what was done is that by implementing the environmental tax on goods and services, the cost of the damage that was done to the resource was internalised into the market prices of the goods and service that were produced by the industries which were negatively affecting the resource directly or indirectly. Hence the cost of the damages done to the mangroves was no longer an external cost and this eliminated this inefficiency that was present beforehand (Pigou 1920).

Although Pigouvian taxes are an efficient ways of handling the negative externalities that would affect the mangrove resource because basically the more the tax is raised, the more incentive there will be to reduce the level of negative externalities (Mankiw 1998). However, Carlton and Loury (1980) argued that a “pure Pigouvian tax instrument” will fail to address this problem over the long run so it must be combined with other instruments such as technology and performance standards.

With the solution taken toward the common property problem, the strategy simply just reduced the level of access to the mangrove forest which was done using governmental policies that now restricts the way in which the resource is used i.e. a command and control regulation. This system by itself is inefficient hence so they would have to be combined with an incentive or market based solution in the form of fines for breaching the newly set policies hence individuals and firms will have an incentive to follow the policies in order to avoid having to pay the fines (U.S Environmental Protection Agency 2010).


In the past because of the open-access or common property nature of the mangrove resource we saw that most of the market benefits where only gained by a few select individuals or firms while the non-consumptive benefits (erosion protection, oxygen production, carbon sequestration, et cetera) which could benefit all of society was only short lived. Now that that resource is regulated we can see that it will stay intact for longer periods of time and we can see society benefiting more from it because the non-consumptive benefits (marginal benefits) would be increased and the marginal cost of the resource to society would be decreased.


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