Prioritizing conservation targets for Indo-West Pacific mangrove forests

Study maps habitat suitability of ten mangroves, predicts future richness decreases and identifies priority areas and species

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 12,101 species occurrences
Sonneratia alba
Sonneratia alba Sm. observed in Darwin, Australia by David Spencer Muirhead (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Mangrove forests provide a range of essential ecosystem services with direct impact on coastal community livelihoods. With climate change and human activity in general threatening mangroves, identifying conservation targets is critical, especially in areas with rich mangrove diversity but limited response capacity.

In this study, authors from Sun Yat-sen University in China selected 10 representative mangrove species from different families, with genus-level distributions limited to the Indo-West Pacific (IWP) region, home to more than 50 species. Seven species were true mangroves, while three species were mangrove-associates.

Using GBIF-mediated species occurrence records rarified to 5 km grid cells and 30 environmental variables, the authors developed ensemble models based on eight distinct algorithms, mapping the potential distribution of the 10 IWP species in past, present and future climates.

The produced maps revealed that about 10 per cent of the IWP area was currently suitable for mangroves and associates. The overall suitable area was predicted to increase by 2050, however, increases were driven by low species richness, and the models predicted a sharp decrease in cells with moderate-to-high species richness.

The study identified priority sites for conservation action in several countries, including areas identified as past refugia, while ranking five species as the highest priority. The authors evaluated the current coverage of sites within protected areas, and highlighted the need for specific mangrove management plans, especially in developing countries.

Banerjee AK, Feng H, Lin Y, Liang X, Wang J and Huang Y (2022) Setting the priorities straight - Species distribution models assist to prioritize conservation targets for the mangroves. Science of The Total Environment. Elsevier BV 806: 150937. Available at: