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Assessing Rakhine Mangrove Forest on Mud – A Critically Endangered ecosystem

29 / Apr / 2024Risk Assessments

Assessing Rakhine Mangrove Forest on Mud – A Critically Endangered ecosystem

A reassessment of the Rakhine mangrove forest on mud provides new evidence that supports its current risk category.

The capacity for mangrove ecosystems globally to provide key ecosystem services is widely recognized, with Myanmar being one of the world’s most mangrove-rich countries. Unfortunately, Myanmar is also a global hotspot for mangrove loss, along with five other Southeast Asia nations, accounting for nearly 80% of the total global human-driven mangrove loss over the past two decades. While many studies have investigated mangrove loss along the Ayeyarwady delta in Myanmar, the mangroves within Rakhine state, bordering the Bay of Bengal, have received considerably less attention.

To address this knowledge gap, a Red List of Ecosystems assessment was recently conducted for this ecosystem. The assessment uses a combination of satellite remote sensing data, historical aerial photos, and previous interviews of local villagers to estimate both recent and historical losses in mangrove area, as well as the current severity of ecosystem degradation.


Results for the Red List of Ecosystems assessment for all sub-criteria for Rakhine mangroves.

Table 1. Results for the Red List of Ecosystems assessment for all sub-criteria for Rakhine mangroves. DD, Data Deficient; LC, Least Concern; VU, Vulnerable; EN, Endangered; CR, Critically Endangered; NE, Not Evaluated. Categories in brackets indicate plausible bounds. Star denotes results from Murray et al. (2020).


Based on the results of the assessment, the ecosystem is categorized as Critically Endangered due to the extreme loss of historical mangrove area since the 1750s. Additionally, the study revealed that almost 50% of the ecosystem is degraded, likely attributed to continued human harvesting and exploitation of mangrove forests.

Despite the extensive loss and degradation of the mangroves, some mangrove forests remain relatively healthy and intact, particularly those within the Wunbaik Reserve Forest. Encouragingly, the rate of mangrove area loss has decreased in the past decade, hinting at a more positive outlook for the ecosystem despite its Critically Endangered status.

The initial assessment of the Rakhine mangrove forest that was included within Myanmar’s Red List of Ecosystems also designated it as Critically Endangered, yet substantial uncertainty clouded this evaluation due to data limitations. However, with advancements in satellite analysis methodology, expanded satellite image archives, and a deeper understanding of mangrove threats and degradation dynamics, our comprehension of mangrove status is rapidly evolving. Leveraging these advancements, this study marks the first recorded reassessment of any ecosystem in Asia under the Red List of Ecosystems criteria. Through this endeavor, the authors uncovered finer-scale patterns of degradation and areal change, showcasing the potential of new technology to assess ecosystems as they continue to evolve.

The paper describing the details and methodology of the assessment is published in Aquatic Conservation.


Written by Calvin Lee.

Style and format by Emy Miyazawa.




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