Floods and mangrove forests, friends or foes? Perceptions of relationships and risks in Cameroon coastal mangroves

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Faced with the growing influence of climate change on climate driven perturbations such as flooding and biodiversity loss, managing the relationship between mangroves and their environment has become imperative for their protection. Hampering this is the fact that the full scope of the threats faced by specific mangrove forests is not yet well documented. Amongst some uncertainties is the nature of the relationship/interaction of mangroves with climate driven perturbations prevalent in their habitat such as coastal floods. We investigated the relationship between coastal flooding and mangrove forest stabilization, identify perceptions of flood risk and responses to offset identified effects. Random household surveys were carried out within four communities purposively sampled within the Cap Cameroon. Coastal changes were investigated over a period of 43 years (1965-2008). Seasonal flooding improved access to mangrove forests and hence promoted their exploitation for non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as fuel wood and mangrove poles. 989 ha of mangrove forests were estimated to be lost over a period of 43 years in Cap Cameroon with implications on forest resources base, ecosystem stability, and livelihoods. Alternative livelihood activities were found to be carried out to moderate interruptions in fishing, with associated implications for mangrove forest dynamics. Respondents were of the opinion that risks associated with floods and mangrove deforestation will pose a major challenge for sustainable management of mangroves. These locally relevant perceptions and responses should however enable the identification of pertinent needs, challenges and opportunities to inform and orient effective decision-making, and to facilitate the development and participation in adaptive management strategies.

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