Vulnerable to the effects of climate change, a band of Indigenous Filipino women replant mangrove trees to protect their homes and sequester carbon.
The effects of climate change are disproportionately felt. Those most vulnerable are women, 80% of whom will be displaced by global temperature rise, and those living in island nations like the Philippines. With both these factors in mind, have banded together to replant mangrove trees to protect their homes and further offset global emissions.
Quezon is located on the island of Busuanga, in the western province of Palawan. Under the 1981 Presidential Proclamation, this entire region is officially designated as a mangrove protection zone, the Palawan Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve (PMSFR). However, much of the ecosystem is severely degraded due to illegal logging. Data shows Palawan’s mangrove forest cover decreased from 63,532 hectares to 59,421 hectares from 2010 to 2015.
When Typhoon Haiyan hit the island in 2013, the mangrove loss led to devastation. With no natural barrier, many wooden fishing boats and thatch-roofed houses were destroyed. This resulted in a loss of income and left many without homes, including village leader Annabel Dela Cruz. It was then she and her community recognized the importance of the mangroves.
As global temperatures rise, so do sea levels and the occurrence of severe weather events. Mangrove forests protect coastal areas and communities by buffering the impacts of storm surge and tsunamis. The energy of waves is reduced by the massive root system of these semi-submerged trees. They also counteract erosion. Rather than the tide pulling soil out to sea, sediments are deposited when the water comes in, allowing the environment to stabilize.
Mangroves are also an essential source of . This is a process of carbon sequestration by the world's marine ecosystems. Algae, seagrasses, mangroves, salt marshes, and other aquatic plants pull CO2 from the atmosphere and bury the organic matter in the soil. These ecosystems are so effective, they store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests, making their conservation and protection a .
For Dela Cruz other Indigenous women in her community, keeping their mangrove forest healthy is now seen as a matter of survival. Partnering with the nonprofit organization, Community Centered Conservation (C3) Philippines, these women have spearheaded a restoration program. Volunteering as citizen scientists, they replant mangroves, monitor seedling growth, and replace trees afflicted by parasite barnacles that reduce their root growth. Since 2014, they’ve planted 158,500 mangrove seedlings on 159 hectares of land with an 80% survival rate.
Currently, there is a proposed National Mangrove Forests Protection and Preservation Act, as well as the more extensive National Wetlands Conservation Act, both awaiting approval by the Filipino government. Dela Cruz and her team aren’t certain when and whether these policies might pass, but they do know they will keep planting mangroves to protect themselves and the planet. Providing yet another example of and how empowering them can lead to a better environment for us all.