Lately, however, mangrove researchers have been delivering some rare good news: According to satellite data, mangrove loss has fallen dramatically in the past two decades, with human-caused mangrove destruction declining even faster than loss from natural causes.
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” says Liza Goldberg, a researcher at the University of Maryland and NASA, who led a recent study of satellite data.
But that doesn’t mean mangroves are out of hot water — figuratively or literally. Both Goldberg’s study and another paper using different methods found that sea-level rise and erosion could soon reverse the positive trend and, in the long term, possibly wipe mangroves off the map altogether.
If you were tasked with choosing just one ecosystem to safeguard the future of humans and the planet, mangroves would be a strong contender. These mucky, tangled coastal forests, although perhaps uninviting to humans, absorb and blunt storm surges,