The widespread destruction of mangrove forests due to logging and coastal development projects has been revealed by a pioneering global assessment.
According to an analysis by the Global Marine Species Assessment Unit (GMSA), more than one in six mangrove species are threatened with extinction.
The worse hit region is the coastal areas of Central America where as many as 40 per cent of mangrove species are considered at risk of extinction.
Mangroves are a vital part of coastal ecosystems, protecting against floods and erosion as well as acting as a habitat for fish and other marine species.
Scientists have also highlighted their role in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and serving as both a source of, and repository for, nutrients and sediments for other inshore marine habitats, such as seagrass beds and coral reefs.
A recent assessment put their economic value to coastal communities in terms of fishing, tourism and flood and erosion protection at $1.6 billion a year.
In Vietnam, the planting and protecting of nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves, which cost just over $1 million, is now saving $7 million in dyke maintenance.
Mangroves are threatened by a combination of factors including logging, coastal developments such as shrimp farms and industrial developments such as ports and tourist resorts.
The IUCN, which part-funded the analysis, has now placed 11 out of 70 mangrove species on its Red List of endangered species.
Conservation International vice president Greg Stone said the loss of mangroves would have 'devastating economic and environmental consequences'.
'These ecosystems are not only a vital component in efforts to fight climate change, but they also protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people from extreme weather and provide them with a source of food and income,' he said.
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