BEYOND PLANTING: The Urgent Imperative to Protect Existing Forests—Inspired by the Success of Mangrove Restoration in Sri Lanka



In the aftermath of the devastating tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in December 2004, the country initiated a commendable effort to plant mangrove saplings along its coast. Mangrove forests, known for their crucial role in providing coastal protection and fostering biodiversity, were seen as a natural solution. However, despite initial intentions, only a mere 3% of the planted saplings survived. This led to a crucial realization – planting trees, even in the form of mangroves, is not enough. The focus shifted from mere plantation to active nurturing, creating a science-driven, community-led initiative to restore and protect the mangrove ecosystem.


The Sri Lankan Initiative:

The “Regenerating Mangroves in Sri Lanka” initiative, launched in 2015, stands as a beacon of success. By creating conducive conditions for mangroves to thrive, the initiative has witnessed natural regeneration, resulting in 500 hectares of newly restored mangroves. With an ambitious goal of restoring 10,000 hectares by 2030, this initiative showcases the significance of moving beyond planting towards sustained ecological restoration.  (Photo UNEP/Todd Brown. UN World Restoration Flagship Managrove Regeneration in Sri Lanka)

Acknowledging Tree Planting:

Before delving into the urgency of protecting existing forests, it’s essential to acknowledge the importance of tree planting, particularly in degraded lands and for the restoration of specific ecosystems. Planting trees remains a crucial aspect of environmental conservation, contributing to climate goals and biodiversity objectives. However, it’s vital to recognize that this alone cannot address the broader challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem degradation.


The Limitations of Tree Planting:

While tree planting has gained momentum globally, it is crucial to understand its limitations. Saving the environment requires more than just planting new trees; it demands the preservation and protection of existing natural habitats. Planting trees, even on a large scale, often falls short in delivering comprehensive outcomes compared to safeguarding and restoring existing ecosystems.


The Urgency to Protect Bonaire’s Forests:

In our quest to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem decline, we need to rethink our approach. While planting trees is a good thing, it is
not enough. What’s crucial is focusing on safeguarding the existing natural treasures on Bonaire—specifically, the tropical dry forest and mangrove forests. These ecosystems are essential. They store a lot of carbon, provide a home for diverse plants and animals, and sustain our communities and cultures.
Bonaire, with its unique tropical dry forests and mangrove forests, is facing its share of environmental challenges. These ecosystems are vital for mitigating climate change and supporting a variety of life, from marine species in the mangroves to endemic plants and wildlife in the tropical dry forests. 



In the race against time to secure a sustainable future, it is evident that planting trees alone will not suffice. To truly make a difference, we must prioritize protecting these specific ecosystems on Bonaire. It’s not just about planting new trees; it’s about ensuring the survival of these natural wonders. Let’s take inspiration from successful initiatives like the “Regenerating Mangroves in Sri Lanka” and make Bonaire a shining example of strategic conservation efforts. By focusing on preserving the tropical dry forests and mangrove forests, we’re not only helping combat climate change but also preserving the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage that make Bonaire unique.