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Mangrove ecosystems, communities and conflict: developing knowledge-based approaches to reconcile multiple demands

Final Report Summary - MANGROVE (Mangrove ecosystems, communities and conflict: developing knowledge-based approaches to reconcile multiple demands)

Rapid urbanisation of coastal zones in Southeast Asia resulted in degradation of mangrove ecosystems, which were important for food production and livelihood of poor population. Until recently, the benefits of mangroves were underestimated and policy implementation was insufficient. The application of proper management practices required scientists, planners and policymakers to deal with changing and often conflicting demands whilst attempting to meet the challenge of fulfilling the needs of local communities.

The MANGROVE project aimed to address the lack of knowledge about mangrove ecosystems status, use and requirements for sustainable management. Thus, its principal objective was to provide improved understanding of the ecosystems' multiple uses in employment generation, asset creation, food production and provision of services supporting society. MANGROVE facilitated the development of an enabling institutional environment, investigated options of knowledge sharing, assessed preliminary ecological and financial footprints of promising aquaculture alternatives and included broad communication activities.

The project was structured in distinct, yet interrelated, work packages (WPs) which undertook the following tasks:

1. Understanding of the existing situation in selected study areas, involving participatory community appraisals, stakeholder and institutional analysis, a study of the market networks for goods derived from mangroves and an assessment of existing datasets. Therefore, the value of the ecosystems to the poor communities was pinpointed and disseminated to stakeholders via the organisation of relevant workshops.

2. Development, monitoring and evaluation of a project dissemination strategy. Mass media, links with global databases and technical and scientific presentations and papers were utilised in addition to local workshops. Websites were established and maintained and communication plans within the participating countries were developed, applied and updated.

3. Maintenance of the ecosystem health and functioning while reconciling multiple demands. Ecosystem operation was analysed based on the preliminary classification of ecological functions while simple indicators were defined. Moreover, management options were proposed and action plans were formulated and implemented in the selected regions. Their potential impacts were analysed in collaboration with stakeholders. A participatory monitoring programme was also established and suitable plan adaptations were identified, in order to enhance policy outcomes. Nevertheless, multiple constraints were pinpointed. The approach did not necessarily fit with local or constitutional planning norms, while joint assessment and decision-making was not possible in cases where livelihood activities and settlements were considered illegal.

4. Examination of various components of the socioeconomic and environmental dimensions of the ecosystems, in order to develop effective strategies and approaches to reconcile tensions and conflicts arising from overlapping uses. The proposals were summarised in appropriate communication media to promote regional uptake.

5. Completion of an institutional assessment and policy study on project outcomes and development of action plans to satisfy multiple mangrove user needs. These deliverables were subsequently refined in consultation with stakeholders, in particular civil society, local community and government representatives. The benefit of ongoing decentralisation of the proposals was highlighted in all cases, since it created the opportunity to ensure involvement of local people. It was also noted that weak policy enforcement was the main constraint in applying the pre-existing mangrove protection framework in all participating countries. Finally, multi-functional rehabilitation schemes appeared to have higher capacity to deliver benefits, even under conditions of increased social and environmental uncertainty.

Research in the MANGROVE project generated new knowledge on previously poorly understood livelihood implications of mangroves and promoted the rational utilisation of the ecosystems. Therefore, improved management strategies could be generated and more refined regulatory frameworks could be developed in order to promote sustainability. In addition, the proposal of local monitoring and implementation activities was mobilised, while potential barriers to action planning and concepts for further investigation were determined. The bio-economic modelling of best management practices (BMPs) and the developed mangrove management strategies were significant project innovations.

The planned intentions for outcomes' exploitation included a number of chapters, papers and presentations to communicate research findings to coastal resources managers, development practitioners and policymakers. Moreover, the proposed modelling approach could be utilised for the evaluation of other sustainable aquaculture models. It was also intended that the created websites and databases remained active after the project completion, in order to ensure public access to the generated knowledge beyond MANGROVE elaboration time.