Community-led mangrove management to protect coastal ecosystems and livelihoods

Mangroves are exceptionally productive ecosystems, not only for the unique biodiversity that they support, but also for the host of benefits, critical to the well-being of millions of coastal people, that they provide. These include coastal protection from storms, shore stabilisation, water filtration, building materials and fuelwood. They also support important fisheries, including shrimp and crabs, which are crucial to the livelihoods and food security of coastal people.

However, mangroves are being lost at a rate of 1-2% per year, faster than any other forest type on earth. Their precious goods and services will be lost completely if deforestation and degradation are not urgently addressed.

What is blue carbon?

The value of mangroves, or ‘blue forests’, to coastal communities is matched only by the extraordinary amount of carbon stored in their biomass and sediments, known as ‘blue carbon’. This carbon has a value on international carbon markets.

If this value can be realised and transferred to the people whose livelihoods depend on the exploitation of mangroves, it could incentivise and finance community-led mangrove management, and help safeguard the fisheries that mangroves support.

However, blue carbon has not been fully included in emissions accounting, and standards for blue carbon markets are still in their infancy. We are working to change this by researching the carbon dynamics of mangroves, helping to develop robust accounting methodologies for blue carbon projects, and supporting community-led mangrove conservation in the Indian Ocean.

Blue forests in Madagascar

Madagascar’s mangroves support globally important marine biodiversity, and underpin the traditional livelihoods and fisheries of some of the world’s most vulnerable coastal communities. Yet they are being lost at accelerating rates, particularly because of unregulated harvesting for timber and charcoal sold at local and regional markets.

Increasing demand for seafood from a rapidly growing population and poorly regulated international markets are exacerbating the pressures on mangrove fisheries, with further devastating consequences to the livelihoods that they support.


more carbon per unit area is sequestered by some mangroves than undisturbed Amazonian rainforest


of global emissions from deforestation are caused by the loss of mangroves


football pitches of mangroves in Madagascar


communities are working with BV on mangrove conservation and fisheries management initiatives

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Building the foundations for blue carbon

Generating blue carbon credits through the sustainable management of mangroves could help to alleviate poverty and support biodiversity conservation in Madagascar’s coastal areas. We are contributing to the science required to make community-led, rights-based blue carbon projects a reality, and building the capacity of local management associations to protect their mangroves.

Our research is seeking to quantify the exact nature and dynamics of carbon sequestration and fluxes in Madagascar’s mangroves in order to ensure the proper valuation of blue carbon credits. By maintaining strong communications with national institutions, we are supporting the development of mangrove conservation projects that integrate into Madagascar’s national REDD+ strategy.

We believe that blue carbon projects should go beyond simply fulfilling the conditions of Free, Prior and Informed Consent; they should be driven and managed wholly by local stakeholders. We are building the foundations for coastal communities to participate meaningfully in blue carbon and gain an equitable share of the benefits by engaging local management associations in project planning, management and monitoring. We are also providing regular updates on our progress and technical capacity building to national authorities in support of these initiatives.

Our research

Our research priorities stem from our aim to develop blue carbon projects that fulfil the Verified Carbon Standard, Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance, and Plan Vivo standards. These are:

Quantifying greenhouse gas emission reductions that can be achieved through mangrove conservation

  • Remote sensing analysis of the historical changes of mangrove forest cover
  • Carbon stock measurements within mangrove forests and wetlands
  • Analysis of the drivers and underlying causes of mangrove and wetland loss
  • Modelling of future mangrove forest and wetland changes

Understanding socioeconomic impacts of mangrove conservation

  • Participatory research to determine local uses of mangroves and their fisheries
  • Analysis of traditional user rights, tenure and laws affecting implementation of mangrove conservation projects
  • Establishing socioeconomic baselines and projecting scenarios to evaluate the impacts of conservation activities and ensure that any financial costs borne by local communities due to these activities are fully compensated
  • Researching and developing viable alternatives to mangrove forest and fisheries exploitation, including ecotourism and pro-mangrove aquaculture

Through our research, we are working to ensure that blue carbon initiatives bring equitable benefits to mangrove-dependent communities.

Blue forests partners

Building community capacity for sustainable mangrove management

Madagascar’s coastal communities stand to lose the most from the loss of mangrove habitats and, as the primary users of mangroves, are best placed to lead conservation initiatives.

We are working closely with community associations and local and regional authorities to:

  • Ensure our partner communities have legal mangrove management rights;
  • Establish forest management plans, including sustainable harvesting practices, to enable communities to sustainably profit from mangrove wood;
  • Provide training in resource governance and enforcement;
  • Support communities to conduct mangrove reforestation;
  • Develop fuelwood and timber plantations to help meet local market demand from alternative and sustainable sources.

Integrating fisheries management

Although protecting and restoring mangroves should revitalise fish stocks, beyond deforestation, mangrove fisheries face additional threats from overexploitation. Effective fisheries management must therefore be integrated into community mangrove conservation strategies.

We are working with communities in Madagascar to develop pragmatic mangrove fisheries management approaches, including the use of temporary and permanent closures of mangrove fishing grounds to rejuvenate and sustain mud crab and shrimp fisheries.

In close partnership with the private sector, we are also developing a financial model that integrates market-based incentives to drive sustainable mangrove fishing practices and ensure their long-term viability.

Meet our Blue Forests team

Blue Forests Project Manager
Ambanja, Madagascar
Geospatial Analyst & Manager of Blue Carbon Science
Portland, USA
Blue Forests Fisheries Coordinator
Ambanja, Madagascar
Blue Forests Coordinator (NW Madagascar)
Ambanja, Madagascar
Blue Forests Coordinator (SW Madagascar)
Toliara, Madagascar
Photographer & Blue Forests Specialist
Roaming, Madagascar
Lisa Benson, Blue Ventures
Blue Carbon Science Manager
Ambanja, Madagascar
Blue Forests Project Manager (Velondriake LMMA)
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Blue Carbon Scientist
Ambanja, Madagascar
Geospatial Scientist
Ambanja, Madagascar
Socioeconomic Scientist
Toliara, Madagascar
Socioeconomic Scientist
Ambanja, Madagascar
Community Liaison Officer
Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Community Liaison Officer
Ambanja, Madagascar
Fisheries Community Liaison Officer
Ambanja, Madagascar
Driver & Research Assistant
Ambanja, Madagascar
NW Site Manager
Ambanja, Madagascar

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National Geographic: Communities leading the way to save Madagascar’s mangroves

Our community conservation coordinator, Brian Jones, talks about how local communities are leading the way to conserve Madagascar’s mangroves in this article featured on National Geographic’s Ocean Views blog.

National Geographic: Mangrove deforestation in Madagascar; what are the options?

BV's Dr Trevor Jones talks about the importance of mangroves for Madagascar's coastal communities, and what we can do to protect them, in this article featured on National Geographic's Ocean Views blog.

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