Castellanos-Galindo, Gustavo A, Cantera, Jaime R., Saint-Paul, Ulrich and Ferrol-Schulte, Daniella (2015) Threats to mangrove social-ecological systems in the most luxuriant coastal forests of the Neotropics. Biodiversity and Conservation, 24 (3). pp. 701-704. DOI

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Mangrove forests are recognized for the important role they play for human societies in a changing world (Lee et al. 2014). Yet alarming levels of destruction and degradation occur in tropical regions, where these ecosystems flourish. A vivid example of degradation in the Neotropics is witnessed in Ecuador where 28–40 % of mangroves were lost to shrimp farming between 1970 and 2006 (Hamilton 2013).

In the mid-twentieth century, the late geographer Robert West (Louisiana State University), inspired by images of Rhizophora mangrove trees more than 40 m high, referred to Colombia’s Pacific ultra-humid tidal forest as “the most luxuriant mangroves in the World” (West 1956). Sixty years later, these forests and the whole social-ecological system face increasing threats that are not prioritized in national and international conservation and management fora. This letter focuses on the history of exploitation of Colombia’s Pacific mangroves, and raises an urgent call to halt the threats facing this representative ecosystem of the Neotropics.
Mangroves in the Colombian Pacific (ca. 300,000 ha, eight mangrove species; Fig. 1) constitute the majority of the Panama Bight mangroves, one of eight mangrove global eco-regions (Olson and Dinerstein 1998). The Colombian Pacific coast is still sparsely populated (5–17 inhabitants/km2) in part due to the absence of coastal roads and the existence of only two roads connecting the coastal cities of Buenaventura and Tumaco with the interior Andean-developed national economy. Most of the remaining coastal villages are accessible only by boat from these main cities, and in the southern coast many are located within mangroves where stilt houses are built to cope with the high tidal flux that occurs in these areas. African descendants brought to South America in colonial times to work as slaves in mines and plantations, escaped and colonized the coast and rivers before and after the abolition of slavery in the early 1800s. Today, these communities represent 90 % of the current population and constitute a politically and economically “forgotten” part of Colombian society.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Ecology > Mangrove Ecology
Social Sciences > Social-Ecological Systems Analysis
Integrated Modelling > Resource Management
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 0960-3115
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2019 11:59
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 13:29

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