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Our research to protect mangrove ecosystems

27 July 2023

Yesterday (26th July) we celebrated The International Day for the Conservation of Mangroves by sharing information about these incredible ecosystems and their amazing qualities that benefit wider ecosystems, as well as us humans. Today, we wanted to tell you about the research we are doing at Plymouth Marine Laboratory to support conservation.

We spoke with a few of our scientists here at Plymouth Marine Laboratory to find out more... 


Andrew Edwards-Jones: Social Scientist 

Andrew (or more affectionately known as ‘Andy’ here at PML) is a Social Scientist with the Sea and Society Group at PML. He is an experienced interdisciplinary multi-method researcher involved in a range of projects that examine relationships between coastal communities and their marine and coastal environments, including international research projects in South-east Asia.  

He is currently working with the FOCUS programme with fellow Sea and Society colleague Dr Olivia Rendon, and related to mangroves specifically is ‘Work Package 3: Coastal-Ocean Mitigation of Climate Change’, with which they are investigating the potential for blue carbon solutions in Malaysia, including the policy landscape and blue carbon finance mechanisms appropriate for the Malaysia context. 

Andy said: “With the ability to store vast amounts of carbon, mangrove forests are key resources in mitigating climate change, but they are under threat worldwide. Malaysia has the 3rd largest mangrove area in the world, and is of vital importance for unlocking blue carbon potential - ‘blue carbon’ being the term for carbon captured by the world's ocean and coastal ecosystems.” 

P1040617.JPGAbove: A photo taken by Andy at the Kota Marudu Bay Mangrove Forest Reserve, accompanied by the WWF Malaysia team. Photo credit: Andrew Edwards-Jones

Some other recent mangrove projects Andy has been working on include: 

We then asked Andy to tell us about any new findings in his work with mangroves, and if he could tell us what he loves most about these ecosystems. He said: 

“A recent survey from the NexAMS project revealed that of nearly 400 people living near mangrove forests in the state of Selangor, Malaysia, 64% expressed an interest in taking part in future mangrove conservation activities, and 61% were willing to pay a small contribution toward mangrove conservation efforts. This is just a small example of the awareness of the importance of a global issue at a local level.“ 

“One of the things I love about mangroves is that it gave rise to the best school homework project in history – Mangrovian Rhapsody!” 

Below: Two photos frm Andy taken during a visit to the see the mangroves and seagrass at Limau-limauan village, Sabah. Photo credit: Andrew Edwards-Jones



Dr Olivia Rendón: Senior Environmental Economist 

Olivia is a Senior Environmental Economist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, specialising in the valuation of ecosystem services and their application to sustainable marine and coastal management. Her research aims to further our understanding of the relationship between communities and nature, including the study of the multiple values that humans hold for nature, quantifying natural/ anthropogenic impacts on nature and society, and exploring nature-based solutions and finance mechanisms to key environmental challenges.   

As mentioned just now, she is working with Andy on the FOCUS National Capabilities International project - feasibility of blue carbon schemes in Malaysia and socioeconomic impacts of light pollution in Chile. She said: 

“We need to robustly value and often finance the multiple benefits from mangroves, such as stacking carbon, biodiversity, and resilience credits. I am currently exploring the feasibility of mangrove REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation plus) in Malaysia as these blue schemes are popping up worldwide”  

Earlier in the year, Olivia visited the Matang Mangrove Forest in Malaysia (deemed by many as the best managed mangrove reserve in the world) to learn more about developing sustainable blue carbon projects in Malaysia.  

Watch video: Dr Olivia Rendón in Malaysia 


As the blue carbon lead here at PML, some other related projects Olivia has been working on include: 

  • BLUE consultancy - quantifying the co-benefits and potential finance mechanisms for Blue Carbon in the UK (lead). Olivia is currently completing this work that provides a comprehensive overview of the value of co-benefits derived from blue carbon ecosystems in the UK with an application to two study sites. She also explores current and potential future finance mechanisms to conserve and/or restore blue carbon ecosystems. (Watch this space for results!) 

  • Sea The Value project - state-of-the-art valuation of blue carbon and bioremediation and development of blue carbon finance mechanisms in the UK (WP co-lead). Olivia’s work involves incorporating “condition of habitat” into carbon values and discussing with experts how to standardise the highly variable valuation of bioremediation benefits form blue carbon ecosystems. 
​Below: Photos taken by Olivia during her visit to the Matang Forest Reserve in Malaysia. In the second photo, if you look closely you can see a water monitor in the water by the mangroves, with Olivia then capturing a photo of it basking on land. Photo credit: Dr Olivia Rendón


Keila Guillen Oñate: Environmental Economist 

Keila specialises in applying economic valuation techniques to assess changes in social welfare from coastal and marine ecosystems management and policy changes. She is completing her PhD in Economics conducting empirical studies, that contribute to the literature on the economic valuation of mangrove ecosystem services in Latin America and highlight the role of ecosystem restoration for local communities' well-being.   

We asked her what she loves most about mangroves:  

“Mangroves are the reason I love working in coastal areas, as they offer a great bundle of ecosystem services not only for local communities, sustaining fisheries and protecting against extreme events, but also fighting climate change through carbon sequestration. We could say that mangroves are a super ecosystem.” 

Above: Keila exploring Ecotourism in the mangrove area “Cienaga La Caimanera” in the Colombian Caribbean (2018). Photo credit: Keila Guillen Oñate

“Nowadays mangroves are the face of blue carbon initiatives, bringing the world's attention to their importance and innovating in ways to use them as Nature-Based Solutions for erosion, sea level rise, and other coastal threats. Likewise, given their role in maintaining biodiversity, local communities are finding new ways to support their livelihoods through ecotourism activities. I think that the future for mangroves looks good as there is more evidence and awareness of their key role in mitigating climate change effects, their loss rates have decreased in recent years, and more restoration projects are being implemented around the globe with promising results. Maintaining and restoring mangroves is protecting life in coastal areas, especially in developing countries.” 

MicrosoftTeams-image-(4).pngAbove: A photo taken by Keila at the Caribbean (2016) when studying mangroves' capacity to control erosion

Above: Sunset in local community known as “Buenavista” with houses over the water in “Cienaga Grande de Santa Marta” the largest mangrove area in the Colombian Caribbean (2021).  Photo credit: Keila Guillen Oñate

Related information

Celebrating International Day for the Conservation of Mangroves