New mangrove forest mapping tool puts conservation in reach of coastal communities

Mangroves, like these in Madagascar, provide a range of benefits, including protection from storms and the prevention of coastal erosion. (Louise Jasper/Blue Ventures), Author provided

by Trevor Gareth Jones (University of British Columbia)

Mangroves are salt-tolerant plants found in intertidal areas throughout much of the world’s tropical and subtropical coastlines. Mangrove ecosystems are highly variable, ranging from sparse, stunted shrubs to dense stands of thick-stemmed tall trees.

These ecosystems provide habitat for an incredibly diverse range of species including fish (from snapper to shark), invertebrates (such as shrimp and crab), reptiles (from snakes to crocodiles), birds (from kingfishers to hawks), primates (such as macaques and lemurs) and even Bengal tigers.

Mangroves also provide essential goods and services to millions living in coastal communities — they prevent shoreline erosion, provide protection from storms, supply food, cooking and building materials, and contain places of cultural and spiritual significance. They are also incredibly carbon dense storing as much or more carbon than their terrestrial forest peers — the majority of this carbon is stored in incredibly deep soils.

Two women holding a GPS unit aloft near a mangrove
Community members using GPS to map mangrove forest in Lamboara, Madagascar. (Garth Cripps/Blue Ventures)

Despite their obvious value, aquaculture, agriculture, urban development and unmanaged harvest are converting mangrove ecosystems across much of the tropics. Approximately 35 per cent of global mangrove cover was lost in the 1980s and ‘90s. While the rate of loss slowed in the past two decades — to an estimated four per cent between 1996 and 2016 — many regions remain hotspots for mangrove loss, including Myanmar.

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My colleagues and I use satellite imagery and field measurements to study mangrove ecosystems in several countries. We’ve developed an accessible and intuitive tool that provides coastal managers with the accurate, reliable, up-to-date and locally relevant information they need for effective community-based conservation of these critical blue (marine) forests.

New mangrove mapping tool

Until now, information from satellite imagery on mangrove extent and change was either global in coverage and not intended for the smaller areas typically covered by community-based conservation efforts, or — if focused on a local scale — required substantial and costly technical expertise.

As a result, local resource managers often lacked the detail they need to effectively plan for the conservation, restoration and managed-use of mangrove forests, and tap into payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs, and the wealth of climate finance available for forest and blue carbon initiatives.

Community mangrove mapping in Lamboara, Madagascar. (Garth Cripps/Blue Ventures)

Our new tool — the Google Earth Engine Mangrove Mapping Methodology (GEEMMM) makes this information freely available to coastal managers and covers the smaller areas they’re concerned with.

The need for a tool like this is enormous. Global products like the Global Mangrove Watch are not intended for local use. And the conventional methods required for local mapping involve a range of technical hurdles including data availability, data processing techniques, computing power and specialized software. All of this remains well beyond the scope of most locally led conservation project budgets.

Our new tool bypasses these barriers and offers an accessible approach to non-specialists including a comprehensive, step-by-step workflow. It requires no specialized expertise with satellite imagery, data processing or coding. The tool only requires basic computer skills, a relatively stable internet connection, and an understanding of the key steps for mapping mangroves.

Piloting the new tool

To pilot our new mangrove mapping tool, we used Myanmar — a global loss hotspot — as a case study. This loss is mostly happening due to widespread conversion for agriculture, such as rice, oil palm and rubber, and for aquaculture, primarily shrimp.

The tool produces current and historic maps of mangrove extent, assesses the quantitative and qualitative accuracy of these maps, and calculates the amount of change that has occurred within a given area of concern. Our results show an alarming 35 per cent loss of mangroves throughout coastal Myanmar since 2004.

Satellite images showing mangrove deforestation.
Mangrove loss in Rakhine State, Myanmar, along the SE coast of Ramree Island and W coast of Taungup Township. The left panels (1) show historic Landsat satellite imagery, ca. 2004-08, and the right panels (2) show contemporary imagery, ca. 2014-18. The top panels (a) show landscape features appear as they would in a regular colour photograph, while the bottom panels (b) show a false colour composite, which provides additional contrast. The mangroves are most easily identifiable in the false colour composite as the dark red regions close to the water. In this 10-year window, large swaths of mangroves have clearly been deforested. (Trevor Gareth Jones), Author provided

My colleagues in Madagascar are further testing the new tool along the country’s west coast where 21 per cent of the island’s mangroves — an area equivalent in size to 80,000 soccer fields — were lost between 1990 and 2010.

Mangroves are a threatened ecosystem in Madagascar, and understanding where they are — and how they’re being used — is crucial for coastal communities. “These communities need to be supported with the use of a simple monitoring tool that is adaptable to the local context,” said Cicelin Rakotomahazo, the coordinator for Blue Forests in Andavadoaka, Madagascar.

Our new mangrove mapping tool is freely accessible online to non-profit users and runs in Google Earth Engine with detailed instructions. The tool offers locally relevant information and removes key technical barriers for use, providing a ready-to-go approach through which coastal managers can use their local knowledge to map mangrove ecosystems anywhere they are found. Those using the tool also play a role in testing and shaping its development.

Healthy mangroves protect people from waves and storms, prevent coastal erosion, and serve as a nursery for fish and invertebrates. They provide shelter for local and migratory birds, and hunting grounds for primates and reptiles. They store significant amounts of carbon, making serious contributions towards global climate change mitigation.

The communities that live in and around mangrove ecosystems are their biggest advocates, and this new mangrove mapping tool (GEEMMM) offers a tangible contribution towards local mangrove conservation, restoration and managed use.

Trevor Gareth Jones, Adjunct Professor of Forest Resources Management and MGEM Program Advisor, University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tennessee Sustainable Spirits Webinar: Sustainability and Community Engagement

Feb 22, 2021, 1:30-2:30 pm CST
Register here.


  • Mark Valencia – TDEC: Environmental Scientist
  • Anthony Davis –  East Nashville Beer Works: President
  • Kelly Tipler – TN State Parks Conservancy: Executive Director       

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation – Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices (OPSP) invites you to the Tennessee Sustainable Spirits’ first webinar of the year. This webinar will discuss how spirits producers can address sustainability and community engagement. Attendees will learn more about how spirits producers can engage with the community in a way that educates or encourages sustainability.

The TN State Parks Conservancy has partnered with Tennessee Brew Works to develop a beer made with 100% local ingredients. A portion of proceeds from beer sales goes to the conservancy. Kelly Tipler from the TN State Park Conservancy will be discussing ways producers can partner with non-profit community organizations. East Nashville Beer Works is a brewery designed around the concept of community. Anthony Davis will discuss how East Nashville Beer Works engages with the community and how others can do the same.

Greencorp Chicago Job Training Program is Now Recruiting For 2021

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) have announced that Greencorps Chicago, the City’s paid, green industry training program for individuals with barriers to employment, is now accepting applications for its 2021 class. The training program starts in late March and candidates are encouraged to apply before the end of February to maximize the chance of acceptance.  

This year’s program is receiving a boost of  $2 million, courtesy of a grant awarded by the State of Illinois’ Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program, created as a key equity element of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. The grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority is intended to help communities hardest hit by the failed war on drugs.  

“The City of Chicago remains strongly committed to creating opportunities for all of our residents and removing barriers for those who face challenges entering the job market,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Thanks to Greencorps, we are able to make this commitment a reality and harness the talents of those who have been excluded from our workforce for far too long. We are incredibly proud of and grateful for the great work Greencorps is doing to connect our residents with opportunities to get employed and get involved in the green economy right here in Chicago.” 

The mission of the CDOT-administered Greencorps program is to empower residents from Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods to create change in their lives and communities through training, service, and career opportunities in environmental fields.  

 “Greencorps Chicago provides a tremendous opportunity for Chicagoans who face challenges breaking into the job market to both earn a wage and gain invaluable experience and skills that prepare them for a productive career in the growing green job sector,” CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi said. “We are very pleased that the R3 Program is allowing us to expand the program and prepare more trainees for future success in jobs that will make Chicago a greener City.” 

Greencorps trainees earn $15-an-hour and receive on-the-job training in the field and classroom. Field training takes place while working on projects for the Chicago Park District, the Cook County Forest Preserves, City vacant lots, and other project partners. In the classroom, trainees will learn about horticulture, ecology, green infrastructure, tree care, pesticide use, and other topics.  

Greencorps trainees are also offered a Number of professional certifications including Defensive Driving Course, First Aid/CPR, OSHA Hazardous Waste Operator, OSHA 10-Hour Safety, Chicago Wilderness Prescription Burn Class, the Illinois Pesticide license and others.  

Throughout their time with Greencorps, trainees are supported with social services, mentoring, and professional coaching, increasing their ability to secure full time employment upon completion of the training.  

Trainees also have access to a placement coordinator that works with graduates to identify successful employment matches and post placement follow-up. Greencorps grads have gone on to work at the Chicago Park District, ecological restoration company Cardno, the Cook County Forest Preserves, and many other businesses and organizations. 

Interested candidates who want to apply for the Greencorps Chicago 2021 program should visit the website – – or call 312-746-9777.  

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How mattress recyclers adapt to evolving consumer trends

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Bulky, hard to compact and ubiquitous, mattresses are seen as a promising area to help reduce hauling costs and drive progress on recycling.

An Antidote for Environmental Despair

Read the full story at Hakai Magazine.

As the environmental problems facing our world compound, despair may feel like a rational response. In her new book, Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis, environmental scholar Elin Kelsey makes an evidence-based argument for choosing hope over despair. Kelsey holds up examples of how ecosystems—including along our coasts and in our ocean—have managed to rebound from damage when given the chance, illustrating nature’s impressive resilience. By sharing these case studies, Kelsey offers reasons to reject apathy and to mobilize. Only if we believe there’s an opportunity to make a real positive impact will we find the motivation to fight for the protection and restoration of ecosystems we depend on. In this condensed excerpt, Kelsey shares a few hope-filled success stories specific to coastal ecosystems.

Pivot Energy and Joliet Junior College Flip the Switch on New Campus Solar System

Read the full story from Pivot Energy.

Pivot Energy and Joliet Junior College (JJC) announced today the completion and activation of a 1.3-megawatt (MW) onsite solar system at JJC’s Main Campus. The solar array, which consists of 3,542 solar panels, was installed by national solar developer Pivot Energy and will save the college more than $1.6 million in electricity expenses over 25 years.

As World’s Deltas Sink, Rising Seas Are Far from Only Culprit

Read the full story at e360.

Although climate change is often blamed for coastal inundation in places like the Bay of Bengal, other factors such as dam building and urbanization play an important role. Scientists say that more sustainable development policies can help blunt the impacts of rising seas.

Dramatic increase in microplastics in seagrass soil since the 1970s

Read the full story from Stockholm University.

Large-scale production of vegetables and fruit in Spain with intensive plastic consumption in its greenhouse industry is believed to have leaked microplastic contaminants since the 1970s into the surrounding Mediterranean seagrass beds. This is shown in a new study where researchers have succeeded in tracing plastic pollution since the 1930s and 1940s by analyzing seagrass sediments.

The State Of Fashion Report—Brands Prioritizing Profits Over Ethical Supply Chains

Read the full story from Forbes.

In this final chapter of my deep-dive into the State of Fashion 2021 Report, I turn to the fashion segment likely to recover fastest from the pandemic, the impact and likelihood of automation in supply chains, and how materials innovation has shifted since Covid-19. I also wrap up this three-part series with final insights from the co-author of the McKinsey & Company and Business of Fashion State of Fashion Report, Achim Berg.

‘Not slowing down’: Solar will be cheapest power resource in US by 2030: WoodMac

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

Based on developing technology already in the pipeline, a new report by Wood Mackenzie projects that solar costs will fall another 15-25% over the next decade, potentially making solar the lowest-cost power resource in all U.S. states by 2030.

Rapid adoption of solar energy allowed the industry to scale and cut costs much faster than analysts in the early 2010s expected would be possible, according to Ravi Manghani, head of solar research for Wood MacKenzie.

Demand for solar continues to exceed installation capacity, and could continue to do so for some time, according to Manghani. But without affordable storage options, he said, solar installations could end up essentially giving power away.