Research informed Kenyan policy on managing coastal mangrove forests, led to the planting of more than 10,000 mangroves, provided local investment from the sale of carbon credits and facilitated local mangrove management.

Impacts

  • The Mikoko Pamoja ('Mangroves Together') project in Gazi Bay on the south coast of Kenya led to the planting of more than 10,000 mangrove trees in previously devastated areas, the training of 46 African scientists in conservation and restoration techniques, and the recruitment of over 250 international conservation volunteers.
  • Sales of carbon credits provided the local community of 3,000 people with funding for a new school building, water pumps and sponsorships to support local children through education.
  • The research informed the Kenyan government’s conservation policies, providing data for a national mangrove plan.
  • A Community Forest Association for mangrove forests, using new legal measures to support local management of the mangroves, was developed as a result of the research.
  • The Mikoko Pamoja project also led to the founding of the Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services, a charity aimed at conserving coastal habitats in tropical regions and alleviating poverty in these areas.
  • The UK research team helped set up the East Africa Forum for Payment of Ecosystem Services, a network for ecosystem projects in the region.

About the research

Mangrove forests provide valuable and wide-ranging ecosystem services to nature and society – they help prevent coastal erosion, filter pollutants, provide a safe haven for juvenile fish and are highly efficient carbon sinks, reducing the impact of carbon emissions. Many poor communities also rely on the trees for their livelihoods, for instance for firewood.

But despite their many benefits, mangrove forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate by coastal development, logging and fish farming. A research project funded by the global development research programme Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation – supported by the Department for International Development, the Natural Environment Research Council and the ESRC – has explored the ecological value and ecosystem recovery of mangroves, focusing on the coasts of Kenya.

A research team from Edinburgh Napier University, led by Professor Mark Huxham, collaborated with researchers at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, and the Universities of Bangor, Birmingham and Edinburgh. They examined factors such as mangroves’ carbon absorption, their value in terms of carbon credits, their function as sites for fish nurseries, the economic and social importance of the forests, and the constraints and opportunities for reforestation.

Outcomes from the Mikoko Pamoja project over the past decade include the planting of more than 10,000 mangrove trees, the restoration of 20 hectares of degraded land, training for hundreds of Kenyan schoolchildren and students, and the participation of more than 40 developing country researchers.