Marshes, coastal areas, riverbanks, lagoons, peat bogs – across the planet, wetlands are often underestimated. Nevertheless, they play a pivotal role in combating climate change and its increasingly devastating effects.
The extraordinary capabilities of the black mangrove, with roots emerging from the water for breathing and leaves expelling salt, narrate the unparalleled ecosystem of mangroves – forests that thrive in brackish water at the interface of land and sea.
Since 2019 in Benin, the NGO CORDE has replanted 200,000 black mangrove trees along the shores of the coastal lagoon near Ouidah.
“The mangrove serves as a spawning ground. Fish come to deposit their eggs at the level of the stilt roots of the mangroves because it’s difficult for predators to access these roots,” explains Ebenezer Houdjinou, coordinator of the NGO.
Another reason the association and surrounding communities protect this wetland, the mangrove, is that it acts as a barrier against storms and increasingly frequent marine submersion waves due to climate change.
As a bonus, mangroves store atmospheric carbon – the kind we emit that leads to all these disruptions – far more effectively than continental forests. “It becomes a carbon sink that must be preserved because if we let it be destroyed, all the absorbed CO2 will be released back into the atmosphere,” emphasizes Ebenezer Houdjinou.
Preserving wetlands is also vital in urban areas, as they act as sponges in case of flooding.
With Amos Adougbagui and other residents of the Fifadji marsh in Cotonou, the AGIR association has rehabilitated one of these wetland areas in the heart of the economic capital.
“Without wetlands, we are heading for complete drowning. The natural refuge for water is watercourses. In several places in the city, watercourses have been interrupted by bridges, rails, and crossings. That’s where we talk about temporary flooding. Now is the time to grasp the importance of wetlands,” asserts Alfred Houngnon, researcher, and founder of the AGIR association.
And if wetlands are preserved and maintained, when the dry season returns, they release stored water back into rivers, refreshing the city.