1 Introduction</h5> Mangrove forests are at the forefront of contemporary scientific and conservation concerns. They are repositories of biodiversity and provide vital habitats for a vast range of reptiles, birds, mammals, and aquatic species ( Alongi, 2002; Nagelkerken et al., 2008 ). Mangroves also protect coastal areas from erosion ( Mazda et al., 2002 ). The bio-shield function of mangroves is likely to assume greater importance with anticipated sea level rise this century ( IPCC, 2007; Alongi, 2008; Gedan et al., 2009 ). Threats to the mangrove ecosystem place many species at risk, including human populations who live along coasts and river estuaries. Satellite images, available since the 1970s, provide an important tool for accurately assessing mangrove coverage and the effects of conservation programs ( Freiss and Webb, 2011 ). They bear witness to a global decline in mangrove forests, which are being cleared for shrimp ponds, tourist infrastructure, roads, building poles, and firewood. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that since 1980 an alarming 20% of the world’s mangroves, or 3.6 million hectares, has been lost globally ( FAO, 2007 ). Other estimates place the reduction in coverage over this period as high as
Geoforum – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2014
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