Narrated by Ana Luisa Moran Ahern, EcoViva Program & Policy Director
Mangrove forests provide a wide array of valuable ecosystem services and play a critical role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. They sequester vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, slow coastal erosion, and form a natural barrier that protects coastal communities from extreme weather. Mangrove ecosystems are a refuge for juvenile fish, a nesting habitat for migratory birds, and a breeding ground for sea turtles. They also provide sustainable economic opportunities for local communities who fish and develop ecotourism initiatives.
The most extensive remaining mangrove forest in Central America is located in El Salvador’s Bay of Jiquilisco. Unfortunately, El Salvador has lost sixty percent of its mangrove forest coverage since 1950, and continues to lose mangroves at a rate of 681 hectares (1683 acres) each year. This loss threatens the livelihoods and safety of the communities and wildlife that depend on the health of this ecosystem for their survival.
However, a ray of hope shines down on a pocket of formerly degraded mangrove forest in the Bay of Jiquilisco. A group of concerned citizens, with the support of national and international partners, decided to turn the tide on mangrove deforestation, and attempt to return the sad swath of destroyed forest to its former natural glory.
Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR) is a process in which the region’s natural hydrology is recreated. The idea is to divert water back to where it originally flowed and restore the delicate balance that mangroves need to survive between saltwater and freshwater. Ecological Mangrove Restoration relies on community memory and community mapping to restore the natural hydrology to the forest. Community members work tirelessly to dig several kilometers of canals. The canals will allow saltwater from the ocean to reach areas that have been cut off. Ultimately the canal will reach the dried out region known as La Anciana.
The Mangrove Association is also working in upper watershed management, in the highlands above the Bay of Jiquilisco. They’re engaged in reforestation projects to increase soil retention upriver. Many of the problems downstream come from an increase in sedimentation. When areas are deforested for agriculture or development upstream, rainwater is no longer captured by the soil and retained, and instead it runs into waterways that eventually run into the Bay of Jiquilisco.
This project not only provides jobs to the local community, but improves the health of their forests and environment. EcoViva is collaborating with the Mangrove Association in El Salvador as well as the Salvadoran Ministry of Environment, other national and international NGOs, and local grassroots community organizations to make this work possible.
With support of people like you, EcoViva and our partners have begun the long-term restoration of hundreds of acres of degraded mangrove forest and have ensured the livelihoods of hundreds of community members through whole watershed restoration and management.
The financial support of donors like you has been crucial to the success of our work.
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