Mangroves and people: Lessons from a history of use and abuse in four Latin American countries
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Juliana López-Angarita, Callum M. Roberts, Alexander Tilley, Julie P. Hawkins, Richard G. Cooke


From native pre-Columbian subsistence economies to the modern global economy, mangroves have played an important role providing goods and services to human societies for millennia. More than 90% of the world’s mangroves are located in developing countries, where rates of destruction are increasing rapidly and on large scales. In order to design effective conservation strategies, it is critical to understand the natural dynamics and anthropogenic drivers of these coastal wetland habitats. We use retrospective techniques to reconstruct mangrove forest history in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. We examine available, present day estimates of mangrove area and evaluate the representation of mangroves in the protected area systems of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador, evaluating existing policies regarding mangroves. Archaeozoological evidence shows that mangroves were exploited for many thousands of years by pre-Columbian societies. Post-conquest deforestation prevailed during the next 400 years. Since 1990, despite increasingly positive attitudes towards mangroves and their inclusion in protected areas and conservation policies, mangrove cover has continued to decline due to expanding human activities (agriculture, aquaculture, coastal development), even in the presence of laws prohibiting their removal. Here we provide an historical ecology baseline of mangroves in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, from which to view current trends and map future trajectories. Given the myriad negative consequences of mangrove loss recorded worldwide, and the strong ecological connectivity of the region, developing effective strategies for mangrove management at an appropriate scale will be paramount to protect coastal livelihoods and biodiversity.

Main Results and Conclusions:

●    This article provides historical background to the usage of mangroves by the Eastern Tropical Pacific countries (Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama). (152-155)
●    This article provides a relatively comprehensive list on the international conventions, regional agreements, and national law/regulations related to mangrove habitats for each of the Eastern Tropical Pacific  countries mentioned within this article.  (158)
●    Mangrove tree species diversity in the Eastern Tropical Pacific is relatively low compared to other regions around the world.
○    “Despite the high mangrove biomass found in the ETP... mangrove tree species diversity within the region is low relative to other regions... making it particularly vulnerable to species loss, and consequently, the effects on human livelihoods and ecosystem services are expected to be greater than in other regions with higher diversity (as systems with higher regional species richness are argued to be more stable)...” (158)
○    “Moreover, the ETP suffers from significant gaps in protected area coverage compared to other regions such as the Caribbean, as well as little connectivity between existing protected areas…” (158)

  • There are a variety of protected areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.
    • “According to our sources, there are fifty-one protected areas in the ETP that include mangroves and these cover a wide range of management categories and schemes..” (159)
    • “Twenty-two occur in Costa Rica, 15 in Panama, 10 in Ecuador and 4 in Colombia…” (159)
    • “Protection schemes range from national parks to wildlife refuges and ecological reserves managed by local communities.” (159)
  • Each country manages their protected areas differently.
    • “Costa Rica and Panama have a higher proportion of no-take protected areas than Ecuador and Colombia.” (159)
    • “Costa Rica and Panama lead the region in mangrove protection, with 58.7% and 51.9% respectively, whereas Colombia, at 23.7%, has the lowest proportion of protected mangroves in the region.” (159)


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