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Open AccessArticle

Can Strict Protection Stop the Decline of Mangrove Ecosystems in China? From Rapid Destruction to Rampant Degradation

1
Key Laboratory of the Coastal and Wetland Ecosystems, Ministry of Education, College of the Environment & Ecology, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361102, China
2
School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China
3
Guangxi Mangrove Research Center, Beihai 536000, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(1), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11010055
Received: 19 November 2019 / Revised: 21 December 2019 / Accepted: 25 December 2019 / Published: 1 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity Conservation in Managed Forests)
China has lost about 50% of its mangrove forests from 1950 to 2001. Since 2001, mangrove forest area has increased by 1.8% per year due to strict protection of the remaining mangrove forests and large-scale restoration. By 2019, 67% of the mangrove forests in China had been enclosed within protected areas (PAs). In terms of the proportion of PAs of mangrove forests, China has achieved the conservation target of “Nature Needs Half”. The ongoing degradation of mangrove forests was assessed at the species, population, community and ecosystem levels. The results show that despite the strict protection, the remaining mangrove forests are suffering extensive degradation due to widespread anthropogenic disturbance. Of the 26 mangrove species, 50% are threatened with extinction, a proportion higher than the average for all higher plants in China (10.8%). Local extinction of some common species like Bruguiera gymnorhiza is widespread. About 53% of the existing mangrove areas were dominated by low-intertidal pioneer species. Consequently, the carbon stock in vegetation has decreased by 53.1%, from 21.8 Tg C in the 1950s to 10.2 Tg C in 2019. Meanwhile, there is an estimated 10.8% concomitant decrease in the carbon sequestration rate. The root cause for this degradation in China is seawall construction because most mangroves are outside seawalls in China. Without fundamental changes in protection and restoration strategies, mangrove forests in China will continue to degrade in spite of strict protection and large-scale restoration. Future mangrove conservation effort should aim to preserve the diversity of both the biota and the ecological processes sustaining the mangrove ecosystem. A few suggestions to raise the effectiveness of mangrove conservation actions were provided. View Full-Text
Keywords: mangrove forest; conservation; restoration; biodiversity; seawall; protection mangrove forest; conservation; restoration; biodiversity; seawall; protection
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Wang, W.; Fu, H.; Lee, S.Y.; Fan, H.; Wang, M. Can Strict Protection Stop the Decline of Mangrove Ecosystems in China? From Rapid Destruction to Rampant Degradation. Forests 2020, 11, 55.

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