Despite the government of Cameroon decreeing the creation of protected areas in mangrove ecosystems, including the Tiko creeks, there isn’t enough information to communities to design an effective conservation landscape. It is for this reason that Eco Relief carried out a two-day working visit to the Tiko mangroves – one of the country’s most depleted mangroves ecosystem – to lay the groundwork for such an initiative. Our project therefore will design a conservation landscape based on spatial needs of species with greatest impact on ecosystem functions and huge area requirements. That is, using a participatory field survey, we will determine species distributions; and for each species, spatial requirements will be determined with habitat suitability models. The project results will set a roadmap for the promotion of community-based conservation of species and habitat restoration through reforestation, while building the capacity of the local people in territory management, and field techniques. This will go a long way to deriving viable solutions for the conflicts between local people and wildlife.
Schematic view of Cameroon's mangrove forests.
The Need to Protect Mangroves
Cameroon’s mangroves are colonised by endemic, endangered and practically unstudied wildlife species; yet the ecosystem has been degraded such that between 1980 and 2006, the mangroves of Cameroon were reduced by about 30% as a result of deforestation (UNEP-WCMC 2007). Unavoidably, wildlife habitat and population have been affected such that rehabilitation of mangroves and wildlife protection is a priority to combat climate change. This explains why Eco Relief placed it at the core of its REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Programme.
Mangrove forests are extremely productive ecosystems that provide numerous goods and services both to marine environment as well as to in situ and ex situ communities. For instance, mangrove forests act as watersheds for millions of people and are home to a wide variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species that cannot be found in any other aquatic ecosystem. These fisheries constitute a key source of food and income for coastal communities the world over, while the forests serve as nurseries for many fish species such as coral reef fish.
Mangrove wood has been proven resistant to rot and insects, making it particularly cherished for activities such as construction and household fuel. When sediments flow down rivers, the dense root systems of mangrove forests trap these sediments and helps prevent the coastline from erosion and floods. Thanks to the diversity of life flourishing in mangrove ecosystems, and their closeness to other tourist attractions such as coral reefs and sandy beaches, they can be a source of income from eco-tourism if properly managed.