Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem
26 July 2023
Mangroves are a link between the land and the sea. Rooted in saline water and soils exposed to the tides, these plants form a rare and fragile universe; a haven of life that must be protected.
From their intertwining roots to the tips of their branches, mangroves are a complex habitat where many species come to feed and reproduce, and one of the most flourishing ecosystems in existence. These environments are also vital for humans, as they slow down coastal erosion and are a source of food for many.
This is probably why the Colombian poet Tomas Gonzalez made these trees the symbol of his poetry collection entitled Manglares (Mangroves), which calls for a return to the essential unity of nature: "So that the trees first emerge and then blur and merge with the air, the landscape behind, the mudflats; /(...) /so that the gannet plunges into the sea in an instant sprinkled with salt, sun, glare; / and so that the sea first gleams and then once again merges with the land".
However, mangroves are in danger: it has been estimated that more than three quarters of mangroves in the world are now threatened and with them all the aquatic and terrestrial organisms that depend on them. This is why UNESCO has decided to act to protect them, along with other valuable blue carbon ecosystems, through its Geoparks, World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves.
Yet time is running out. In the face of the climate emergency, we must go even further, for mangroves also serve as key carbon sinks that we cannot allow to disappear. This is why a UNESCO project is restoring mangroves in seven Latin American countries: Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama and Peru. This project will not only bring economic opportunities to local communities, but it will also allow knowledge to be shared between local and indigenous populations and the scientific community.
Beyond protection and restoration, we also need global awareness. This means educating and alerting the public, not only in schools, but wherever possible. This is the spirit of the exhibition that UNESCO designed jointly with the Mangrove Action Project and the National Science Museum of Thailand, which will open to the public at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, in September this year. This exhibition will then travel the world – because by raising awareness of the mysteries of mangroves, we will be able to preserve them sustainably.
Herein lies the objective of this Day: for everyone in our societies to become aware of the value, the beauty, and the vulnerability of mangrove ecosystems and to commit themselves to their protection.