Large-scale Coastal Wetland Recovery & Coastal Vulnerability to Climate Change Highlight this Year’s Mangroves and Macrobenthos Meeting


Large-scale Coastal Wetland Recovery & Coastal Vulnerability to Climate Change Highlight this Year’s Mangroves and Macrobenthos Meeting

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With an easy Northern Florida accent, Ron Brockmeyer Jr. addressed 350 mangrove scientists at Flagler University in St. Augustine Florida as part of the Mangroves and Macrobenthos Meeting (MMM4), July 17-21, 2016).  The MMM series serves as the world’s largest platform for “mangrovers” with this year’s fourth meeting containing 84 oral presentations and several dozen lightening talks and posters.

Ron Brockmeyer works as an environmental scientist for the St. Johns River Water Management District.  For the past three decades, Ron has worked as chief practitioner of one of the world’s largest successful mangrove and salt-marsh rehabilitation efforts, effectively restoring 12,605 ha. of former mosquito control impoundments through hydrological restoration (discussed earlier this year in piece in the Conversation). 

Joined in a mangrove restoration forum moderated by Roy R. "Robin" Lewis III, Ron and his cohorts Jorge Rey and Melinda Donnelly described the history of wetland transformation for mosquitoe control and its subsequent repair. A Wednesday field trip to the Indian River Lagoon show-cased this impressive story of coastal landscape recovery that has taken place over decades through coordination and support from numerous local, state and national agencies.  At the first stop, our group witnessed on-going including dike removal, and a re-grade of surface elevation to support natural colonization by halophytic grasses and pioneer mangrove species.

On-going hydrological rehabilitation

Created tidal creek - to facilitate natural revegetation of halophytic grasses and mangroves

The trip culminated within the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center, where a herd of manatee had gathered adjacent to the restored mangrove, a testament to the effort’s success. 

Herd of 18 Manatee enjoying the restored coastal marsh


Daniel Murdiyarso (CIFOR) Meriadec Sillanpaa (Green Forests Products & Tech) and Sigit Sasmito (CDU-RIEL)

My own presentation led-off Session 8 of MMM4, “Socio-Ecology and Ecosystem Services” where I offered a Preliminary Typology of Mangrove Rehabilitation Social-Ecological Systems in Indonesia

 This talk examined the adaptive capacity of 5 system types; 1) Stable-systems largely converted to aquaculture, 2) eroding/subsiding systems largely converted to aquaculture, 3) industrial silviculture systems, 4) pristine but pressured forests and 5) fringing small-island systems vulnerable to sea-level rise, with frequent calls for collaboration and research needs to empirically determine key social and ecological slow moving variables and define thresholds between system regimes.

My concluding slide depicted 4 major management options for practitioners interested in enhancing the adaptive capacity and ecosystem service value

Numerous Australian mangrovers presented at MMM4 including RIEL’s own Clint Cameron who presented an early assessment of carbon storage, sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation benefits resulting from rehabilitating mangrove ecosystems in Indonesia. 

Dr. Norm Duke’s paper on the recent mangrove die-off in the Gulf of Carpentaria was perhaps the most eye-opening talk of the conference as early evidence leads us to believe that the die-off was caused by extreme soil moisture deficit related to the this year’s severe El Nino potentially exacerbated by the effects of record high temperatures ostensibly linked to climate change.  Die-off of this extent has not been witnessed globally in mangrove areas.  Collaboration between JCU (TropWater), CDU-RIEL and the Governments of Queensland and the Northern Territory seem imminent as the global community eagerly awaits the science behind this shocking disturbance event.  In tandem with mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and recently reported die-off of kelp forests and seagrass beds of Western Australia, Australia’s coastal habitats need to be considered extremely vulnerable to climatic variability.

For the Fish

Together with Roy Robin Lewis III and Wetland Ecologist Laura Flynn, we attend an annual technical meeting at the Southeast Regional Office of NOAA Fisheries in St Petersburg, Florida.  Robin Lewis presented an overview of Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation to a group of 60 fisheries scientists and coastal wetland managers from Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, with a special focus on recovery of functional fisheries equivalent.  I was called upon to provide insight on how the 6 steps of EMR are implemented in practice, how collaboration between government and other stakeholders proceeds in Indonesia, and to talk about nascent Blue Carbon opportunities in Australia.  Serendipitously, two master’s level graduates from CDU School of Environment were in attendance based out of the Florida office of NOAA.

Ben Brown and Roy "Robin" Lewis III

Talking Mangrove Forest Landscape Rehabilitation (MFLR) @ WRI

Earlier in July, I had the opportunity to present a dry-run of my talk at MMM4 with a crowd of 40 staff from World Resources Institute in Washington D.C.  The staff worked on various aspects of a WRI’s Global Forest Landscape Restoration (GFLR) programme, with particular interest in the application of their Restoration Opportunities Assessment Method (ROAM) in Indonesia.

During a talk on assessing Forest Landscape Restoration Opportunities at WRI HQ - Washington D.C.

I presented on application of ROAM specific to coastal landscapes, and discussed in detail the relevant stakeholders that need to be engaged in Indonesia to embed the effort in Indonesian governance.  The development of a National Mangrove Management Strategy in 2012 (SNPEM) with steerage from the National Mangrove Management Coordinating Body (KKMN) provides an excellent platform for the assessment of national mangrove forest landscape rehabilitation opportunities, and reform of current underachieving practices.

Use of the ROAM framework will begin in earnest in towards the end of this year, as a mangrove rehabilitation sub-working group will convene at the International Blue Carbon Initiative Scientific Working Group meeting in Manado (Sept 27-29) and the Sustainable Livelihood Based Mangrove Workshop hosted by KEHATI foundation in Malang, East Java (October 11-13).

My own PhD aligns closely with the application of the ROAM framework to assess and prioritize opportunities for Mangrove Forest Landscape Rehabilitation (MFLR) in Indonesia.

If you would like to learn more or become involved, feel free to drop in at Red 1.2.29 for a chat anytime