March 15, 2024

Evidence Library Synthesizes Global Research and Local Perspectives on Mangrove Ecosystem Services

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

A new publication from Duke University scholars is helping to inform management of two mangrove habitats in Puerto Rico and Florida to benefit both people and nature.

The team from the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability brought together available scientific evidence on mangrove degradation and recovery for the Jobos Bay and Rookery Bay research reserves.

The substantial mangrove ecosystems at both reserves were heavily affected by hurricanes Maria and Irma, respectively, in 2017. The dual storms prompted reserve managers to seek ways to better understand effects of storm impacts and recovery trends.

As part of that effort, a team of scientists, managers and educators from Florida and Puerto Rico created the Mangrove Coast Collaborative (MCC) project to provide tools that can aid in mangrove forest restoration and management. The MCC was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management National Estuarine Research Reserves Science Collaborative. The Ecosystem Services program at the Nicholas Institute was one of many MCC partners and spearheaded creation of the new evidence library.

“Like all of our evidence libraries, this is a resource built for two specific ecosystems, but it also serves as a repository for global information on ecosystem services affected by mangrove degradation and recovery after storms,” said lead author Sara Mason, senior policy associate at the Nicholas Institute. “We hope the library can aid management of and education and research about the mangrove forests at Jobos Bay and Rookery Bay to ultimately benefit the people and wildlife who depend on them.”

The document is the latest in a series of evidence libraries developed by the Nicholas Institute for coastal systems, such as oyster reefs and salt marshes. Institute staff collaborate with other research institutions and local partners to produce evidence libraries both tailored to specific ecosystems, habitats and related environmental concerns while remaining applicable to broader, related ecosystem services.

An evidence library begins with an ecosystem services conceptual model (ESCM). ESCMs illustrate how a stressor or management intervention cascades through an ecological system and results in changes to ecosystem services. The models also offer entry points to consider how ecosystem services could be impacted by a program or project. Once the ESCM is compete, scientific literature describing relationships between elements of the ecosystem is collected, synthesized and mapped onto the ESCM. 

The authors of the new evidence library complemented the scientific literature about mangroves with information gathered from local experts. Through workshop engagements, managers and scientists shared anecdotal information about ecosystem services provided in the mangrove systems where they work.

Mason worked with three student assistants to create the mangrove evidence library—2023 Duke graduates Madena Mustafa and Madison Griffin and 2023 North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics graduate Virginia Dickson


CITATION: Mason, S., M. Mustafa, V. Dickson, and M. Griffin. 2024. Evidence Library for Mangrove Degradation and Recovery. NI R 24-01. Durham, NC: Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, Duke University.

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