New Paths to Mangrove Conservation
Submitting InstitutionEdinburgh Napier University
Unit of AssessmentEarth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Environmental Sciences: Ecological Applications, Environmental Science and Management
Biological Sciences: Ecology
Summary of the impact
The Mikoko Pamoja project uses carbon credits for conservation and
development in Africa. It is one outcome of Edinburgh Napier University's
(ENU) work on mangrove ecology which has local, national and international
impacts. With public and private support, the project has recruited
>140 international volunteers, trained 46 African scientists, and
funded development including schools and pumps. It is pioneering community
control of mangroves using new legal instruments and informing the
national management plan. A regional forum founded by the team facilitates
international networking. The work has been highlighted by the United
Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development as good practice and
has generated ACES (Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services), a new
Mangrove ecosystems provide vital services at local, regional and global
scales, including nursery grounds for fish, protection of coastlines from
erosion and storm damage, filtration of sediments and pollutants and
carbon sequestration. Despite this high value they are being rapidly
destroyed, at rates exceeding those for terrestrial tropical forest,
through coastal development, aquaculture and logging. This case study
describes novel research (from 2002-2013) on mangroves and application of
this new understanding in practical ways to conserve them. Initial
research led by Professor Mark Huxham (ENU, 1995-2013), including PhD
students and research assistants at ENU, demonstrated juvenile fish use of
Kenyan mangroves using natural chemical tracers retained in adult fish3.6.
This helped make the case for the importance of mangroves as nursery
sites. Research then explored the processes of ecosystem recovery, driven
by the need to restore large areas devastated by industrial wood
extraction some 30 years previously. Two Kenyan and one Sri Lankan PhD
students, registered at ENU, as well as scientists from Kenya
(specifically, Dr James Kairo of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research
Institute), Sri Lanka (Professor Loku Jayatissa) and the UK (especially Dr
Martin Skov, Bangor University and Professor Maurizio Mencuccini,
Edinburgh University) were heavily involved in this work, which has been
supported throughout by the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO),
Earthwatch Institute. Large scale experiments (planting 5872 trees)
revealed the key physical and chemical constraints preventing natural
regeneration (increased wave impact and salinization), and determined the
nursery techniques and target species to be used in active restoration3.3, 3.4. In addition to these practical applications, ENU work
addressed questions of fundamental interest to ecosystem science,
including the role of species richness in ecosystem functions and of
positive facilitation in plant growth in harsh environments3.1.
We demonstrated for the first time how higher species richness and higher
density can contribute to survival and ecosystem restoration in mangroves,
and how altering planting strategies affects the forests' ability to keep
up with sea-level rise by raising the level of their substrates3.5.
Mangrove forests are amongst the most efficient natural carbon sinks and
are of global importance as carbon stores. One strand of ENU work has
focused on quantifying carbon flows in the forests, for example by looking
at rates of decomposition of below-ground carbon, and at the impacts of
cutting trees on greenhouse gas fluxes. We have translated this field
scale knowledge to national scale information by using remote sensing to
quantify rates of forest loss and areas of high future risk of
deforestation in Kenya (work conducted between 2009-2012 with Dr Rob
Briers, ENU, 2003- 2013)3.2, 3.4. We have quantified the stocks
and flows of above and below-ground carbon at our field site and
elsewhere, in order to allow valuations of this ecosystem service on the
voluntary carbon market. In addition, socio-economic and policy research,
collaborating with social scientists in Kenya and elsewhere has assessed
the use and market values of different mangrove ecosystem goods and
services and the policy options available for conserving mangroves through
payments for ecosystem services.
References to the research
(ENU researchers are in bold)
3.1 Huxham, M., Kumara, M.P., Jayatissa, L.P., Krauss,
K.W., Kairo, J., Langat, J., Mencuccini, M., Skov M.W. and Kirui
B. (2010) Intra and inter-specific facilitation in mangroves may
increase resilience to climate change threats. Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society 365, 2127-2135. DOI:
10.1098/rstb.2010.0094. This paper was part of a prestigious
special edition on biological interactions with climate
3.2 Kirui, K.B., Kairo, J.G., Bosire, J., Viergever,
K., Rudra, S., Huxham, M. and Briers, R.A. (2012)
Mapping of mangrove forest land cover change along the Kenya coastline
using Landsat imagery. Ocean and Coastal Management,
3.3 Kirui B., Skov M.W., Kairo, J., Mencuccini, M. and
Huxham, M. (2012) Effects of species richness, identity and
environmental variables on growth in planted mangroves. Marine Ecology
Progress Series 465, 1-10. DOI: 10.3354/meps09999. This paper
was selected as the open access `special featured paper' of this
3.4 Rideout, A., Joshi, N., Viergever, K., Huxham,
M. and Briers, R.A. (2013) Making predictions of mangrove
deforestation: a comparison of two methods in Kenya. Global Change
Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12176.
3.5 Kumara, M.P., Jayatissa, L.P., Krauss, K.W.,
Phillips, D.H. and Huxham, M. (2010) High mangrove density
enhances surface accretion, surface elevation change, and tree survival in
coastal areas susceptible to sea-level rise. Oecologia
164:545-553. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-010-1705-2. This paper was covered
in the ecological press and showed how high density mangrove forests
can raise the level of their substrates.
3.6 Huxham, M., Kimani, E., Newton, J. and Augley,
J. (2007) Stable isotope records from otoliths as tracers of fish
migration in a mangrove system. Journal of Fish Biology 70,
1554-1567. DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01443.x.
Selected grants (all peer reviewed by Research Council or similar
• Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)/Department for
International Development (DfID)/Economic and Social Research Council
(ESRC) (the Ecosystems Services and Poverty Alleviation, ESPA, programme).
2010-2012. Swahili seas. £ 249,855 (awarded to M. Huxham)
• NERC/DfID/ESRC (the ESPA programme). 2009 -2010. Capacity building for
mangrove assessment, restoration and valuation. £105,612 (awarded to M.
• Climate and Development Knowledge Network (DfID). 2012 - 2014. iCoast.
£449,100 (awarded to M. Huxham)
• NERC 2008-2010. The mangrove carbon cycle — understanding below-ground
processes and managed cutting. £ 48,891 (awarded to M. Huxham).
Details of the impact
Our work has had local (environmental and social improvements), national
(policy development and implementation) and international (formation of
regional and international practitioner networks) impacts; has informed
policy makers and has raised awareness and understanding among the general
public in Kenya and the UK.
Coastal communities in Kenya suffer from chronic poverty. They rely
heavily on natural resources, particularly fish, and are vulnerable to
environmental degradation. The 3,000 people living in the Gazi Bay area of
Kenya benefit directly from Mikoko Pamoja, a project designed by the
Huxham team (from 2008-2013), based on the research described in section
2, that uses carbon credits to fund forest conservation and community
development. Mikoko Pamoja is accredited by the charity Plan Vivo and is
managed by a committee of local stakeholders (advised by international
experts). Our work was the first to develop a technical specification for
the accreditation of mangrove carbon (2011) (using site-specific work
described in section 2). It is designed to act as a template for future
projects; and has been showcased by the Kenyan government5.1.
Impacts at other sites in East Africa are facilitated through our
networking body, the East African Forum for Payments for Ecosystem
Services (EAFPES) 5.2 and our charity, the Association for
Coastal Ecosystem Services. The work has funded development including a
new school building (benefitting 600 children), new water pumps (supplying
50 households) and the sponsorship, through primary, secondary and
tertiary education, of dozens of local children.
We worked with Government in pioneering new uses for legal instruments
for community based conservation. With the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and
the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute we developed a Community
Forest Association (CFA; established 2012), the first for a mangrove
forest. Our work contributes to the national plan for the United Nations'
Reduced Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation (REDD)
programme (it is supported by KFS as a demonstration site for this), the
production of a national mangrove management plan, and the identification
of areas of high forest quality and high risk. Data from ENU work3.2
were requested by the Kenyan Government.
In 2009, we established EAFPES for regional and Africa-wide networking on
payments for ecosystem services (PES) projects to help with co-ordination
of coastal PES projects (particularly those involving `blue carbon' stored
in marine ecosystems). EAFPES is supported by the UK Government Ecosystem
Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme and WWF Kenya. It has
run workshops aimed at East African managers and stakeholders, drawing on
the work described in section 2, and showcasing the `our ecosystem'
on-line tool that allows managers to assess the value of, and threats, to
their mangrove resource5.3. It provides a virtual source of
information and networking informed by our research and experience. ACES
(charity no. SC043978), established in May 2013, facilitates the flow of
funds from international donors, corporations and individuals for coastal
development and conservation in Africa.
We were invited to the All Party Parliamentary Group on International
Development in February 20125.4, receiving a special
commendation from Stephen O'Brien MP, Minister for International
Development, who wrote: `I found the Making an Impact series informative,
especially noting the innovative engagement with Aviva in the Kenya
We presented a keynote at the Aquatic Resources of Kenya 2010 national
conference attended by the Minister for the Environment, which led to a
request for data to inform the national mangrove plan. We organised a
special session on REDD readiness, carbon credits and mangroves at the
West Indian Ocean Marine Science Association October 2011 conference,
attracting 55 delegates including regional decision-makers and NGOs.
We have had coverage in the Kenyan and UK press (e.g. BBC 20105.5),
using this to inform and educate but also to help recruit volunteers and
raise charitable funding. We collaborated with the ASCUS science and art
fund to produce a video drawing on our work on Kenyan experiences and
perspectives on climate change seen by more than 300 people, in Edinburgh,
in February 2012.
Practical conservation outcomes over the past decade (2004-2013) have
included the planting of more than 10,000 mangrove trees and the
restoration of ~20 ha of degraded land5.6, 5.7. Hundreds of
Kenyan school children have visited our site, and > 40 developing
country researchers have worked with us. Kenyan scientists, trained to
Masters and PhD level through our project, with funding from charities and
businesses (Aviva Ltd and Zurich International), have progressed to Kenyan
Government and academic positions, vindicating our strategy to strengthen
capacity for mangrove conservation and management within Kenya.
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Film produced by the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and
Mineral Resources showcasing our work and the Mikoko Pamoja project; our
project is featured from 8.05 minutes onwards:
5.2 For the East African Forum for Payments for Ecosystem
Services, including documents proving legal confirmation of local groups
and management plans: http://www.eafpes.org/.
5.3 For the on-line tool for local managers in Kenya to assess
the carbon contents and risk status of their mangrove forests: http://icoast.ourecosystem.com/interface/
(to operate this application requires a login that can be provided on
5.4 For All Party Parliamentary Group on International
Development and the Environment, go to: http://www.appgide.org/meetings and scroll down the page to
"Previous meetings". See also: http://www.appgide.org/sites/appg.iiedlist.org/files/pdf/ESPA-APPG-James-Kairo.pdf.
5.5 For an example of journalism/press coverage see BBC:
5.6 For work with the international NGO Earthwatch Institute,
including details of education and the site: http://www.earthwatch.org/exped/huxham.html.
5.7 For an overview of some of the impacts described by ESPA,
a key UK government supporter that uses this project as a case study, see:
Corroborating Organisations: contact information for relevant
individuals within the following organisations provided separately.
- Associate Director, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute — to
corroborate all claims about policy and local impacts in Kenya, and
importance of the research to Kenyan national policy.
- Associate Director, Earthwatch Institute — to corroborate long-term
commitment to local site and people, educational impacts and outreach,
and communication impacts.
- Director, Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Programme — to
corroborate work with UK policy makers, corporations and funders.