Regeneration at the Coast: Benefits for Community and Climate - A New Framework for Impact Assessment of Mangrove Restoration
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To close carbon emission gaps and achieve the Paris Climate Agreement, mangrove restoration has emerged as a potential solution. These forests are known for their exceptional carbon sequestration rates, but the attention for mangrove restoration and similar climate solutions in the marine and coastal environment is limited as compared to their terrestrial counterparts. By broadening our scope from a sole focus on the climate mitigation potential of these aptly coined ‘blue carbon’ solutions, towards the appreciation of their full range of benefits, the case for marine nature regeneration becomes more compelling. In this thesis, I developed a new impact assessment framework for mangrove restoration, that includes indicators for sustainability impact as well as indicators for effective implementation. The framework is based on the concept of a Safe and Just Operating Space and is the first to translate this concept to the intervention level. Based on expert interviews and literature review, it explicitly considers the impact of the natural system as well as the impact arising from human interference. Altogether, 30 impact dimensions have been identified, underpinning the fact that benefits of mangrove restoration go far beyond its climate mitigation potential alone. This is complemented by an overview of challenges and facilitating conditions that typically influence the implementation success of mangrove restoration efforts. The feasibility of local application of these frameworks is assessed through a case study on mangrove restoration on Bonaire. A selection of impact dimensions in this context is discussed, but data required for quantification was lacking. The case study score on indicators for effective implementation left only three indicators with considerable space for improvement. Mangrove restoration as performed on Bonaire may therefore provide useful lessons for efforts elsewhere. An additional community perception study suggested a difference in apprehension of mangrove ecosystem services between different demographic groups that exist on the island. It also showed how active engagement with restoration improved people’s understanding of the value of mangrove forest. The ‘Impact on Safe and Just Operating Space’ framework and the associated indicators for effective implementation presented here, provide a novel, more all-encompassing approach for impact assessment of mangrove restoration and may well be applied to other nature-based solutions. This thesis manifests a trans-disciplinary perspective on the meaning of sustainability impact, engaging both field practitioners, various stakeholders, and the local community. Further research should provide a quantitative analysis of mangrove restoration potential on a local scale, including counteracting disservices.