Getting into mangroves – an interview with Mark Spalding

World Atlas of Mangroves jacket imageWhat is a mangrove, what sort of habitat does it provide, and what might you find living there?

The term mangrove covers both a group of plants, and the habitats they build. The plants are a broad group which consists of about 70 species and hybrids, including a palm and 3 large ferns, the rest being trees. They have all evolved to live in the intertidal zone, and many have some quite dramatic adaptations – physiological mechanisms to keep out or to remove salt; strange roots which hold them up in soft soils, and others to allow air to the roots in the waterlogged muds; even reproductive tricks, like vivipary, to give young plants a headstart in a tough environment.
And wherever they grow they form a very distinctive habitat which is sometimes just a few small patches in a narrow intertidal zone, but sometimes extends for hundreds of kilometers around deltas and along estuaries.

The World Atlas of Mangroves, published by Earthscan, is a huge undertaking with you at the helm as lead author. What are your credentials? Who were your colleagues?

I think it’s taken about 5 years. Leadership of the whole project was run by the wonderful International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems, a small but very active NGO based in Japan, with funds from the International Tropical Timber Organization. Mami Kainuma, one of the co-authors, works with ISME. Also, at its heart, it’s a book rich with maps – and that work fell to two other organisations: FAO in Rome and UNEP-WCMC in Cambridge – and many fantastic colleagues in both organisations.

I wrote an earlier mangrove atlas with ISME which came out in 1997. In fact the two works are almost incomparable. The 1997 work was the best we could do with limited resources. It’s not bad, but this work is so much more than just a new edition – we’ve got globally consistent, detailed maps; we reviewed 1400 references for the text; we have the first ever range maps for all species…

With mangroves disappearing three to four times faster than land-based forests, what is being done to address the situation?

I think the issue is largely a product of where they are situated. The coastal zone has faster-growing populations and mangroves are on a sort of front line, on valuable land which can be readily and easily converted for agriculture, aquaculture or urban development.
But quite a lot is being done. We estimate that a quarter of all remaining mangroves are in protected areas, while additional areas are in places where there is sustainable management. The realization of just how valuable mangroves are has also driven huge efforts at mangrove restoration and plantation in many countries – over 2% of the world’s mangroves are restored.

What are the main problem or priority areas for mangrove conservation?World Atlas of Mangroves page detail

Communication. I think the case for mangrove conservation is rock-solid. More so than for some other habitats where direct dollar values for goods and services can sound a little tortured or unconvincing. But many still don’t know it, so mangroves are still suffering from a poor press as unproductive wastelands, and from poor accounting, as short-term profits are being used to persuade losses with often dire long-term consequences.

But it’s not all bad news? What are some of the success stories?

Matang forest in Malaysia, and the Sundarbans in Bangladesh and India, are among the longest-running tropical forestry operations in the world. They are plantations of a sort, though much reafforestation is just natural growback. But in both places for well over a century thousands or even tens of thousands of people have benefitted from timber products and fisheries, while the wildlife remains abundant, showing that we can work  alongside nature.

Mangroves are also robust survivors. Given half a chance they’ll recover. They don’t appear to be stressed by warming temperatures, and if they can migrate inland then sea level rise might not stress them too much either.  Get things right and they are going to help us to adapt to climate change AND keep local communities going with other goods and services.

The World Atlas of Mangroves is a global overview, and this is a focus we see increasingly in conservation and ecology with developments such as remote sensing. What are the benefits and the limitations of this kind of approach?

In an increasingly global world they help us to get things in perspective. For those working at national or local levels they offer a context for that work. They enable arguments to be made, and I’d like to think they also enable connections – that people working South America might realize the bonanza to be made from ecotourism, or sustainable harvesting. They also help those who deal with issues at the international level – in the case of mangroves to make the case for their importance – in climate change adaptation, carbon sequestration, rural livelihoods, offshore fisheries. Of course its not a book to be used for navigation! The maps are good, but not that good, and it’s always important for people like me to remember that books like this are really written by the thousands of experts who live and work “on the ground”.

You have commented on the “extraordinary synergies between people and forests”. How would humanity be affected by a substantial decrease in the world’s remaining mangroves?

Of course, many in the west wouldn’t notice, and the world’s economies might not notice, but mangroves are right there in the front line for many of the world’s poorest. There would be declines in livelihood, and in food and fuel supplies in many of the world’s poorest tropical coastal areas. A more subtle impact would be that of increased vulnerability. These same people, and others, even in coastal towns and cities, would become more exposed to risk from storms, flooding and the more subtle encroachment of sea level rise. Mangroves won’t stop these things, and its hard to pin exact numbers on the services, but the evidence that they help significantly is now very solid.

I assume you have visited many mangroves in your travels – what is it like to experience being in, on or around a mangrove? Any interesting stories from a field marine ecologist?

I just love getting into mangroves, wherever I am. It’s an escape to another world. To scramble, monkey-like through the 3-dimensional landscape of roots, with feet never touching the ground, or to paddle a canoe through apparently endless narrow channels, or even, in some places to snorkel at high tide and to watch fish at home in

World Atlas of Mangroves page detail

an underwater forest. And then to stay still and watch to intense activity across the full spectrum of marine and terrestrial life. There’s a sort of magic about it, it seems to break all our preconceptions of what the coast should be like, or the sea, or a forest!!!

What part do you see the Atlas playing in highlighting the cause of mangrove conservation?

There’s a lot of information out there about the importance and value of mangroves, but perhaps it’s suffered from being piecemeal. The case might have been made that each story was a one-off. This time we’ve read 1400 sources and had review comments from over 100 people. It’s no longer possible to ignore the patterns and I hope that it might be used, by academics, teachers, policy experts and NGOs, to really make the case. Mangroves are critical resources.

What would you suggest as the most important next action the world’s conservation organisations and political leaders should take if we are to see our mangroves flourish and to secure a happy future for their inhabitants and dependents?

I think for some, conservation organizations embracing habitat restoration and active plantation might be something of a new direction. For others working  to educate local communities on the values of mangroves, or to help them defend their mangrove from clearance or conversion might be new ground. For sure we could always do with more protected areas, but actually in this case the holistic vision might take us beyond that and into thinking about protection in other ways, such that we halt losses completely and start to increase habitat areas.

Another new direction will be seriously planning for climate change. That will mean thinking about what lies behind the mangroves and planning for movements and migrations as sediments move, and new land is inundated.

The World Atlas of Mangroves is available now from NHBS


Reefs and Mangroves Essential for Economic Growth in Dominican Republic

News from BirdLife International

A new report has been published which provides an analysis of the value of mangroves and coral reefs to the tourism and fisheries industry in the Dominican Republic.

Coastal Capital: Valuing Coastal Ecosystems in the Dominican Republic, released yesterday by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Reef Check-Dominican Republic also looks at economic benefits of the Dominican Republic’s Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve a popular and lucrative tourist destination.

photo: Yolanda León (Hawkbill juvenile at Jaragua-Barhoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve, Dominican Republic)

Read the full story

Visit the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve website – a project run by Grupo Jaragua, the BirdLife Partner in the Dominican Republic.

Visit the BirdLife Caribbean homepage

Buy the World Atlas of Mangroves at NHBS

photo: Ciro Albano; www.nebrazilbirding.com

Plus – good news! – click on the photo  for some more good news about rare birds from BirdLife International

New: The Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids

The Biology and Conservation of Wild FelidsThis is the sister volume to Macdonald and Sillero-Zubiri’s landmark Biology and Conservation of Wild CanidsMacdonald and Loveridge draw together the world’s foremost experts on all 36 felid species to give a comprehensive account of felid conservation science, evolution and systematics, felid form and function, genetic applications, behavioural ecology, management of species that come into conflict with people and control of international trade in felid species, conservation tools/techniques, ex situ management, and felid diseases. You can also buy the two volumes in single set.

An indispensable foundation for theoretician and practitioner alike, it sets the agenda for the next decade of felid biology and conservation. The editors utilize their 50 years of combined experience in professional engagement with the behaviour and ecology of wild felids to draw together a unique network of the world’s most respected and knowledgeable experts. For the first time, this inter-disciplinary research programme is brought together within a single volume which portrays the unique attributes of the wild felids, describe their fascinating (and conflicting) relationship with humans, and create an unparalleled platform for future research and conservation measures.
A final chapter analyses the requirements of, and inter-disciplinary approaches to, practical conservation with cutting-edge examples of conservation science and action that go far beyond the cat family.

Silent Summer: Editor Interview

Norman Maclean, editor of the best-selling Silent Summer Jacket ImageSilent Summer, talks to NHBS about his career, early home-grown experiments with nature conservation and the state of wildlife policy in Britain today.

What first inspired you to pursue your field of study, and how old were you?

I have been interested in wildlife since my earliest years (aged 6), being brought up amongst fields and farms on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I was equally interested in insects, birds, mammals and fish. My parents were very tolerant of my rearing caterpillars, beetles, field mice and newts at home, mostly in my bedroom.

What were the books that inspired you when you were young?

The books of Richard and Cherry Kearton on Nature Photography in St. Kilda and elsewhere.

“Direct From Nature: The Photographic Work of Richard and Cherry Kearton” by John Bevis.

Later, “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.

What is your all time favourite natural history book?

Gilbert White’s “Natural History of Selborne”.

Who are your heroes in the field?

Gilbert White, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, David Attenborough.

How do you split your time between the field and your writing projects?

You might call me a polymath. Academically, I am Professor in Molecular Genetics, but I have strong hobby interests in wildlife, trout fishing, playing tennis, gardening, antiquities and travel.

How has your core understanding of the subject changed since you began your research?

Enormously. As a geneticist I have lived through 50 years of amazing discovery and change. In terms of wildlife, ecology and conservation I have always been a keen field biologist and have taught on student field courses in Southern Spain for over 20 years. I have also been witness to the alarming decline in insects and some birds and mammals. I have studied wildlife in over 50 countries worldwide, seeing the destruction of so much natural habitat, yet savouring the riches of what is left.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My main research topic is gene regulation, and I and my research group have made some signicant discoveries in this area. Maybe my proudest moment in youth was discovering the first breeding of the Golden Plusia moth in Scotland when I was twelve – confirmed by letter from the Edinburgh Museum of Natural History.

What do you consider to be the most interesting current developments in your field of study?

In genetics the sequencing of the genomes of many species including humans, and in conservation biology the return to the UK of breeding cranes, red kites, otters, pine martens and others.

Which current issues in conservation do you feel have the biggest impact on your field, and how would like to see these dealt with?

The realization that you cannot effectively conserve wildlife in the UK by making fences round reserves and letting nature take its course.  Ecologically speaking, almost all of Britain and Ireland has been moulded by human interference and activity so our future responsibility lies in the active management of wildlife, including judicious culling where necessary.

How would you like to see your field develop in the future?

With increased political prioritization of wildlife conservation and the preservation of what remains of the countryside. We must urgently control further human population increase and resist further demands on space, water supplies, energy supplies and contributions to global warming. We should all be prepared to reduce our own standards of living in order to improve those of the other species with which we share the planet.

Where will you be taking your next study trip?

Ethiopia.

What will your next book be?

I don’t know. Any ideas welcome!

If you could spend a month working in another field, which would you choose?

Ancient History.

How would you encourage young people who might be interested in pursuing a career in your field?

Get a degree in biology or genetics at a reputable university and learn your own fauna and flora.

Get your copy of Silent Summer today

Silent Summer: State of Wildlife

Over the past 20 years dramatic declines have taken place in UK insect populations. Eventually, such declines must have knock-on effects for other animals, especially high profile groups such as birds and mammals. This authoritative, yet accessible account details the current state of the wildlife in Britain and Ireland and offers an insight into the outlook for the future.

Written by a team of the country’s leading experts, it appraises the changes that have occurred in a wide range of wildlife species and their habitats and outlines urgent priorities for conservation. It includes chapters on each of the vertebrate and major invertebrate groups, with the insects covered in particular depth. Also considered are the factors that drive environmental change and the contribution at local and government level to national and international wildlife conservation. Essential reading for anyone who is interested in, and concerned about, UK wildlife.

With a foreword by Sir David Attenborough.

About Silent Summer: The State of Wildlife in Britain and Ireland

Over the past 20 years dramatic declines have taken place in UK insect populations. Eventually, such declines must have knock-on effects for other animals, especially high profile groups such as birds and mammals. This authoritative, yet accessible account details the current state of the wildlife in Britain and Ireland and offers an insight into the outlook for the future.

Written by a team of the country’s leading experts, it appraises the changes that have occurred in a wide range of wildlife species and their habitats and outlines urgent priorities for conservation. It includes chapters on each of the vertebrate and major invertebrate groups, with the insects covered in particular depth. Also considered are the factors that drive environmental change and the contribution at local and government level to national and international wildlife conservation. Essential reading for anyone who is interested in, and concerned about, UK wildlife.

With a foreword by Sir David Attenborough. Buy Silent Summer now from NHBS

What the reviewers say about Silent Summer

Silent Summer is “like a Domesday Book of British Wildlife”, according to its editor, Professor Norman Maclean. In a foreword, Sir David Attenborough warns that “it is invaluable now and in the future it will be irreplaceable”. Will any real action be taken? Of course not. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s masterpiece, alerted the world in 1962 to the effects of agricultural pollutants such as DDT and in many ways launched today’s environmental movement. Silent Summer raises more complex and local questions. Terence Blacker, The Independent

Now, in an echo of that breakthrough publication, Sir David Attenborough has written the foreword to a new book, Silent Summer. Since Silent Spring we thought we had learnt a lot. But, as Sir David and 40 ecologists make clear, that is not so. Our wildlife is in retreat thanks to modern farming and the encroachment of urban life on the countryside. The Times

Published in 1962, Silent Spring helped launch the global environmental movement and, in Britain, prompted an eventual ban on pesticides such as DDT. Maclean believes, however, that such triumphs have done little to slow the destruction. “The evidence is that we could be in the middle of the next great extinction of wildlife, both globally and in Britain,” he said.

Butterflies are among the hardest hit of insect groups. Five species are extinct and, of the 59 that regularly breed in Britain, most have seen sharp declines in population. Jeremy Thomas, professor of ecology at Oxford University, who wrote Silent Summer’s chapter on butterflies, said populations were falling faster than almost any other group. The reason, he suggests, is that the caterpillars of many species need particular plant species to feed on — but these are often targeted by farmers as weeds. “Nearly every butterfly decline can be attributed to habitat loss or the degradation and increased isolation of surviving patches of habitat,” he said. Jonathan Leake in The Times

Perhaps what I’m excitedly photographing and noting today is the cliched ‘pale shadow’ of twenty years ago. I may be incredibly lucky in that I’m seeing something that in terms of biodiversity is equivalent to fifty or even a hundred years ago, but there’s no way of knowing. 10000birds.com

A new major environmental book, entitled Silent Summer: The State of Wildlife in Britain and Ireland, offers up disturbing facts and figures about the human impact on nature in the British Isles. Celebrated naturalist, broadcaster and national treasure Sir David Attenborough has penned the forward to the book, a collaborative effort by 40 UK ecologists, which outlines the impacts of pesticides, population growth and intensive farming on British and Irish flora and fauna. Greenfudge.com

Prof Maclean argues that “the evidence is that we could be in the middle of the next great extinction of wildlife, both globally and in Britain.” Nick Collins, The Telegraph

Buy Silent Summer now from NHBS

Contents of Silent Summer

List of contributors; Foreword David Attenborough; Preface; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations;
1. Introduction Norman Maclean; Part I. Factors Driving Changes in Wildlife: 2. Climate change T. H. Sparks, C. D. Preston and D. B. Roy; 3. Agriculture, woodland and semi-natural habitats Ken Norris; 4. Vertebrate animal introductions Christopher Lever; 5. Plant introductions Andrew Lack; 6. Urbanisation and development Kevin J. Gaston and Karl L. Evans; 7. The great game: the interaction of field sports and conservation in Britain from the 1950s to 2008 Robin Sharp; 8. Going fishing: recent trends in recreational angling Robin Sharp and Norman Maclean; 9. Impacts of hormone disrupting chemicals on wildlife C. R. Tyler and R. M. Goodhead; 10. Water pollution: other aspects Michael Hughes and Carl Sayer; 11. 25 key questions in ecology Norman Maclean; Part II. Conservation in Action: 12. Conservation in action in Britain and Ireland Andy Clements; 13. Wildlife in the UK Overseas Territories Mike Pienkowski; 14. UK involvement in conservation outside UK territory N. Leader-Williams and A. M. Rosser; Part III. The Case Histories: 15. Mammals in the 20th century D. W. Yalden; 16. Bats Karen A. Haysom, Gareth Jones, Dan Merrett and Paul A. Racey; 17. State of bird populations in Britain and Ireland Robert A. Robinson; 18. The conservation of the Grey Partridge N. W. Sotherton, N. J. Aebischer and J. A. Ewald; 19. Reptiles Chris P. Gleed-Owen; 20. Amphibians Tim Halliday; 21. Freshwater fishes: a declining resource Peter S. Maitland and John F. Craig; 22. Riverflies Cyril Bennett and Warren Gilchrist; 23. Bumblebees Dave Goulson; 24. Butterflies J. A. Thomas; 25. Moths Richard Fox, Kelvin F. Conrad, Mark S. Parsons, Martin S. Warren and Ian P. Woiwod; 26. Dragonflies (Odonata) in Britain and Ireland Peter Mill, Steve Brooks and Adrian Parr; 27. Flies, beetles and bees, wasps and ants (Diptera, Coleoptera, and Aculeate Hymenoptera) Alan Stubbs; 28. Hemiptera Alan J. A. Stewart and Peter Kirby; 29. Grasshoppers, crickets and allied insects Judith Marshall; 30. Aerial insect biomass: trends from long-term monitoring Richard Harrington, Chris R. Shortall and Ian P. Woiwod; 31. Invertebrates Richard Chadd and Brian Eversham; 32. Land and freshwater molluscs Ian J. Killeen; 33. The sea shore S. J. Hawkins, H. E. Sugden, P. S. Moschella, N. Mieszkowska, R. C. Thompson and M. T. Burrows; 34. The offshore waters John Baxter; 35. Plants Andrew Lack; 36. Conclusion: what is the likely future for the wildlife in Britain and Ireland? Norman Maclean; Glossary; Index.

Bio of Norman Maclean

Norman Maclean is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at Southampton University and has a strong interest in wildlife, conservation and river management. He has helped to run student field courses for more than 20 years and has authored and edited more than a dozen textbooks and reference books in Genetics and Cell Biology. He is an Elected Fellow of the Linnaean Society and the Institute of Biology.

Buy Silent Summer now from NHBS

New Edition – The Ultimate Guide to Scarcer British Birds

181550

New Edition – Fully Revised and Updated
In 1996 The Ultimate Site Guide to Scarcer British Birds became an instant classic – for the first time in one publication, birders discovered how and where to see over 100 rarer and difficult-to-find species. These are the birds that make birding such an exciting and rewarding activity: there’s nothing like the thrill of tracking and observing elusive species such as Hawfinch, Spotted Crake and Great Grey Shrike.

For this new expanded edition, the species accounts have been further enhanced with more than 60 new vignettes from illustrator Ray Scally. For each of the 142 species covered this book tells you all you need to know, including where and when to look – up to six pages per species, detailing up to 50 sites, often including maps and grid references. Get your copy of the new edition today!

Other new birding titles this month include Birding from the Hip and History of Ornithology – for more, browse New Birding Titles at NHBS – September 2009

Our pre-publication special offer for Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows must end 30 September 2009; order your copy today and save £35!

Wildlife in a Changing World – Now Available at NHBS

180305Wildlife in a Changing World: An Analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has just been published and is available at NHBS. This new volume brings updated information across all threatened species and in particular new data on freshwater and marine species.

Wildlife in a Changing World provides the most up-to-date information on the patterns of species facing extinction in some of the most important ecosystems in the world and the reasons behind their declining status. For managers this information will assist in designing and delivering targeted action to mitigate these threats. From a policy perspective, the IUCN Red List offers a progressively more valuable tool. Increasingly it provides the fundamental information needed to deliver indicators for tracking. Order your copy today

Other recent wildlife and species conservation titles include Species Richness, The Game of Conservation, Restoring Wildlife and Rewilding the West.

Browse New Wildlife and Species Conservation titles

Ecology & Conservation – New Titles at NHBS

Spatial Conservation PrioritizationNow available at NHBS – Spatial Conservation Prioritization brings together a team of leading scientists to introduce the conceptual and methodological aspects of how to undertake spatial conservation planning in a quantitative manner. We have a special offer on this title – order your copy today and save £5!

Also browse other recent titles of interest in conservation ecology, including Nested Ecology and Population Genetics for Animal Conservation.

Browse other recent Ecology & Conservation titles

Browse Conservation and Biodiversity

Browse Biology and Ecology

New Titles in the Important Bird Areas Series

NHBS is distributing two new major new titles in the Important Bird Areas series, profiling the Important Bird Areas of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Both of these key conservation titles are now in stock at NHBS. 175898

Important Bird Areas in Kazakhstan: Priority Sites for Conservation provides the results of the IBA inventory and its relations to nature conservation in Kazakhstan, and details the accounts for 121 IBAs identified in Kazakhstan which form part of the Central Asia IBA programme. A Russian edition of this book is also available for purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

175898

Important Bird Areas in Uzbekistan: Priority Sites for Conservation provides the results of the IBA inventory and its relations to nature conservation in Uzbekistan, and details the accounts for 48 IBAs identified in Uzbekistan which form part of the Central Asia IBA programme. A Russian edition of this book is also available for purchase.

 

 

 

 

Browse Conservation, Care and Monitoring

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Browse our full range of Wildlife Equipment for ringing pliers, binoculars, waterproof notebooks and all the other field essentials.