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Mangroves Biodiversity & Ecosystem

The course has been designed to build expertise in mangrove biology, ecology, assessment, management, and restoration and is predominantly aimed at young academics, professionals, managers, and any other interested individuals, especially from developing countries.

Enrollment is Closed

Course Start

Dec 22, 2020


Course End

Dec 10, 2023



02:00 hours





With a partnership between UNU-INWEH and The Nature Conservancy, this curriculum was built to bring awareness of the importance of Mangroves to healthy ecosystems and human communities. The open-access Mangroves Course is designed to build expertise in mangrove biology, ecology, assessment, management, and restoration and is predominantly aimed at young academics, professionals, managers, and any other interested individuals, especially from developing countries. The course provides the opportunity for professionals to build their capacity without taking personal leave to attend classes. While several aspects related to mangrove ecosystems and their management have been reasonably well-developed empirically and academically, there is no overall comprehensive curriculum that touches on all aspects of mangrove ecosystems and few universities offer graduate-level courses on this topic. The level distance course on Mangrove Ecosystems offers the following benefits:

  • It creates a generation of students who have had structured training on the topic which they can develop further in research or apply in the field.
  • It leads to more research work undertaken in this area.
  • It exposes university professors and specialists to this field of practice so they can better serve as technical advisors, address knowledge gaps through further study, and propose new applications that are practicable and up-scalable.
  • It generates more interdisciplinary interest and knowledge products.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1: Introduction to Mangroves

This unit introduces students to the mangrove – a rare and threatened ecosystem. It provides a brief overview of how mangroves evolved, their geographical distribution, importance to humans and coastal ecology, and global status and threats. Much of the information summarized here is expanded upon in greater detail in subsequent units. Thus, the material covered in this unit will enable students to grasp more complex topics related to the biology, ecology, assessment and management of mangroves

Unit 2: Ecosystem Structure & Function

This unit begins with an exploration of the physical mangrove environment, describing the commonly observed forest types, community and vegetation patterns within these settings, and the processes underlying them. Next, we appraise patterns of productivity and biomass within the mangrove, since these properties influence food web dynamics both in mangroves and adjacent ecosystems. Through our discussion of productivity it becomes evident that mangrove forest dynamics are shaped by living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) factors. Accordingly, we next turn our attention to the many properties of the mangrove environment which contribute to overall forest structure and function. From this, we turn our attention to mangrove forests as a habitat and describe the major functional roles filled by animals and plants within and how they interact within the mangrove food web. Since mangroves also support communities beyond boundaries, we lastly address their connectivity to adjacent habitats and how this connectivity gives rise to some important ecosystem functions.

Unit 3: Floral Diversity

This unit introduces you to the vegetation which characterizes the mangrove environment. It provides an overview of the floral groups which occur in the mangrove, including true mangrove plants, mangrove associates and other floral components. The last section of this unit introduces you to some basic concepts in plant taxonomy and can be used as a guide to help you locate and identify true mangrove species in the wild.

Unit 4: Faunal Diversity

This unit will provide students with an overview of faunal biodiversity in the mangrove. From this unit, students will gain an appreciation of the incredible diversity of animals which occur in the mangrove and also how this diversity supports human communities.

Unit 5: Mangroves and Climate Change

This unit explores the implications of climate change for mangrove ecosystems, the role of mangroves in mitigating climate change effects and strategies to help manage mangroves into the future.

Unit 6: Mangroves and Coastal Defense

Coastal areas support a large and increasing proportion of the world’s population and assets therefore the gradual increase in frequency and power of extreme natural hazards (e.g. cyclones, storm surges, hurricanes, and tsunamis) over the past century, as well as sea level rise, are a cause of major concern in the coastal regions. This Unit explores the concept of disaster risk in coastal areas and the part that coastal ecosystems and specifically mangroves can play in reducing this risk and in protecting coasts.

Unit 7: Mangroves and People

Mangroves support the livelihoods of many people by providing food to eat, fuel to cook and heat, wood to build homes, and a place to pursue commercial activities. This unit introduces the historical connections between mangroves and people, and describes the many services provided by these ecosystems and their benefits to human communities. This unit also discusses the people most directly dependent on mangroves – indigenous peoples.

Unit 8: Mangrove Restoration and Afforestation

Mangroves in many areas of the world have suffered from either poor management or the lack of any management regime. Deforestation for timber, charcoal, aquaculture, agriculture and development are all primary drivers for the loss or degradation of mangrove forests worldwide leading to coastal erosion, decline of fishery resources and other environmental consequences, some of which in need of urgent attention. This Unit will introduce students to the techniques that have been used to restore or increase mangrove areas and teach students the key steps and considerations necessary before and after the implementation of rehabilitation and planting activities and projects. Finally, this module explores the results of restoration and planting projects from around the world, and identifies the factors that have contributed to their success or failure.

Unit 9: Economic Valuation for Mangrove Conservation

This unit introduces students to the methods used for valuing wetland ecosystem services with the goal of maintaining the flow of these services and the benefits they provide to people. In particular, it focuses on the benefits provided by mangroves and how economic techniques can be used to demonstrate the value of these benefits and incorporate them into decision-making frameworks.

Unit 10: National Policies and Laws and International Agreements Applying to Mangroves

This unit introduces students to national policies and laws that affect mangrove conservation and biodiversity. Students will also understand the different multilateral environmental agreements relating to mangroves at the international level, how the agreements work, and the main limitations of each agreement. Last of all, students will learn about the importance of policy framing and coordination, particularly its role in crossing political boundaries and linking mangrove conservation and biodiversity efforts with larger agendas, as well as how to improve policy for the purposes of mangrove conservation./p>

Course Developed by

Hanneke Van Lavieren

Programme Officer
United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health

Course Reviewer
Nidhi Nagabhatla

Principal Researcher: Water Security
United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health

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    02:00 hours
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