Newton RCUK-SEAMED - Harnessing multiple benefits from resilient mangrove systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment


Mangroves provide multiple benefits from carbon storage and shoreline protection at global and national scales, to food and energy for natural resource-dependent coastal communities at local scale. However, mangroves are coming under increasing pressure due to land use changes resulting from climate change, coastal development and aquaculture. In Vietnam the area under mangrove forest declined by 35% between 1983 and 2012, increasing vulnerability of the coast to tidal surges, hurricanes and saline intrusion as well as reducing the availability and accessibility of mangrove resources necessary to support livelihoods. Previous research in Vietnam has taken a largely technical approach to the relationship between mangrove protection, restoration and aquaculture and has not paid adequate attention to socio-economic factors. This research aims to evaluate socio-ecological resilience in Vietnamese mangroves in the Red River Delta and evaluate management options to enhance delivery of benefits and services across multiple scales, using an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates ecology; remote sensing and GIS; and social research methods on livelihoods and scenario evaluation. By doing so, this research will contribute to a) the livelihoods and resilience of mangrove dependent communities, b) the on-going delivery of ecosystem services across scales, while at the same time c) through stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange throughout, building the capacity for conservation and sustainable management of mangroves in Vietnam.

Planned Impact

The overall impact of the research is enhanced management of mangrove social-ecological systems to deliver ecosystem services across scales. We have identified a range of stakeholders who will benefit from the research in a number of different ways. These are outlined below. The timeframe over which we envisage benefits is indicated using L = long term; M = medium term; and S= short term.

1. Mangrove-dependent communities will benefit through:
- Enhanced participation of different stakeholders in mangrove governance (M/L)
- Improved diversity, heterogeneity and sustainability of livelihoods and the landscape (L);
- Improved delivery of key ecosystem services (L);
- Overall enhanced quality of life (L)
2. Policymakers (national and other levels) will benefit through:
- Enhanced awareness of ecosystem services delivered by mangrove socio-ecological systems (S/M);
- Improved integrated interdisciplinary knowledge base to inform evidence-based policymaking (M);
- Improved effectiveness of public policies on coastal and wetland management (L);
3. NGOs and other agencies (e.g. ICRAF)
- Increased access and availability of data on the study areas (M);
- Improved interdisciplinary approaches for resource management and ecosystem service delivery (L);
4. Development donors (e.g. DfID, GIZ)
- Decreased need for development aid in the study areas over the longer term (potentially leading to reprioritisation of focal areas) (L)
- Specifically, in line with DfID's climate and environment priorities and of particular relevance to investments in Tanzania:
- Enhanced understanding of how people can adapt to the effects of climate change on their lives and livelihoods (S/M)
- Improved evidence base for how the world's forests and the livelihoods of the 1.2 billion people who depend on them can be enhanced (S/M)
- Improved effectiveness of public policies on coastal and wetland management, supporting the UK Government's promotion of good governance (L)
5. Academics - See academic beneficiaries section

The kinds of potential impacts we envisage are often overlapping. In an ideal scenario, benefits for one stakeholder group support and feed into the delivery of wider benefits for another. For instance, improved effectiveness of public policies on coastal and wetland management at the level of national policy stakeholders will also support the goals of country-level and international donors. Finally, there are less tangible benefits for global society which the research can help to deliver. Healthy, functioning, resilient mangrove systems, which are managed for multiple purposes, will continue to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Thus, the research can also contribute towards climate change mitigation.
Description This research focuses on the benefits (i.e. ecosystem services) provided by mangrove systems in the Red River Delta in Vietnam. The research is focused on mapping mangrove ecosystem change and the social values that local communities attach to mangrove systems, in order to support improved management of mangrove systems so that they provide both local livelihood benefits, and national services such as storm protection and carbon storage. A key finding so far on the project is the extent to which mangroves are used for "land building" in the Red River Delta. Initial analysis of remote sensing images suggest that the coast is moving seaward significantly. Initial indications from our interviews and questionnaires suggest that mangroves are planted specifically for this purpose, to trap sediment and to create new land that can be used for shrimp farming once the mangroves are planted further into the sea and older mangrove forest is cleared. This has important implications for our understanding of mangrove ecosystem services in this region and what role conservation has in managing mangrove forests for both local livelihoods and for storm protection in the Red River Delta. It also opens up questions about future climate change, and whether these processes of "land building", and their contribution to local economic development, can continue under sea level rise.
Analysis of the spatial social science data also suggests that there are ecosystem service hotspots within the mangroves, areas which are important for a number of different ecosystem services. These are also likely to be dynamic, as the processes of planting, land building and then clearing, affect where and how mangroves are used for different goods and services. Following from this, a key academic paper in preparation has found that there are important differences between households with different levels of vulnerability in how they value ecosystem services, and where important areas for those services are located in mangrove systems. This has implications for how future management of these mangrove systems impacts on the livelihoods of different groups of people.
How these findings relate to livelihoods of local communities, and particularly the poor, is still under investigation, but we expect these findings to contribute to economic development through new knowledge that will feed into planning processes, by identifying the role of mangrove change in local livelihoods, and in changing livelihoods over time.
Exploitation Route Land building and ecosystem service hotspots, once validated and explored further in the project in relation to local livelihoods, will have important implications for management and planning across the Red River Delta. If this new knowledge is taken up by government planning, environment and agriculture departments then they will influence how, why and where mangrove projects for planting and conservation are implemented, where development along the coast might be implemented, and by the inclusion of mangrove contributions to livelihoods and local economic development in planning processes.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description The project is already having an impact in terms of our Outcome 2 of our pathways to impact, research capacity - academics, research students: Significantly increased capacity of co-Is and research students in addressing interdisciplinary challenges (linked to SDG 4). Currently a female masters student has completed their masters thesis based on field data collected with this project. The student received training and support in the field and then guidance on their analysis from the research team. Research training has been provided for all members of the project team based in Vietnam, in stakeholder analysis, participatory methods and ecosystem services. This has increased the capacity of these team members to engage with the research project, but also to conduct collaborative and multi-disciplinary research. Research training for a wider group of researchers (academics and students) based in CRES Vietnam has been provided in using GIS for social research. Mentoring and support of the PI has increased their capacity to manage the project. This project has two female co-PI's, and two other female co-I's leading workpackages (4 out of a total of 5 academic staff on the project) and has employed a female PDRA on the project. As a result the project is building the capacity of female researchers and academics in this field, both in Vietnam and in the UK (SDG 5). Work is currently on-going on academic papers, with 3 in preparation (outcome 1), on policy briefs and planning for a policy workshop to be held in July (outcome 3), and webGIS training for local stakeholders (outcome 4). The policy briefs and policy workshop are the main way the project intends to influence policy processes in Vietnam. New knowledge and tools developed in the project will be made available to policy makers to support decision making on economic development planning and conservation in mangrove areas. Key policy makers in government ministries have already been engaged in the project (through meetings) and there is interest in how the spatial products produced by this project (particularly webGIS), can be used in policy and planning processes.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Title Ecosystem services questionnaire 
Description The project team developed a questionnaire to collect spatial data on ecosystem service use of mangroves. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Currently the questionnaire has only been used within the project, but we would expect that following publication of the research that the questionnaire will be made available for modification and use by other researchers interested in investigating spatial social data. 
Description Building in sedimentary data 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Department School of Environmental Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have contributed access to study sites, and linked their researchers with our collaborators in Vietnam.
Collaborator Contribution Colleagues at the University of Hull have been awarded a pump priming grant by their university to gather sediment flow data in our study sites, with the view to adding in sediment ecosystem services to our work. We had a scoping workshop with Hull (Feb 2018) are currently planning a scoping visit to the study sites in Vietnam, before they join us for fieldwork in September.
Impact The work under this partnership is on-going. Initial fieldwork to install a series of water level and turbidity sensors throughout the mangrove forest to collect data relating to sediment and water dispersal through the mangrove system, to collect sediment samples from the mangroves to obtain typical grain sizes and compositions of material being deposited in the mangroves, and to collect flow data and sediment samples from the Thai Binh River, has all been successfully completed.
Start Year 2017
Description CRES 
Organisation Vietnam National University
Country Viet Nam 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of Leeds team has contributed expertise in ecosystem services, participatory approaches, and stakeholder analysis methods through training workshops held alongside project meetings in Hanoi. Within the research, the Leeds team has contributed expertise to the collaborative construction of a questionnaire survey and also participated in data collection in the field. The Leeds team are leading the spatial analysis of the data collected through the questionnaire. The Leeds team is leading on other aspects of the research related to policy (including stakeholder engagement and future scenarios) and provides project leadership.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborator at CRES is the co-PI on the project. They bring country specific expertise and a wealth of experience in local level social sciences research. They have contributed expertise in questionnaire design. They have facilitated the field visits, through arranging the necessary visas and permissions to conduct research. They have also facilitated meetings with key stakeholders at national, regional, district and commune level in order to gain support and permission for the field research. They have also provided field assistants to assist in carrying out the questionnaires.
Impact Currently data analysis is on-going. A masters student based at the National University of Vietnam was involved in the data collection and analysis and has since submitted her dissertation. We are awaiting the outcome of her examination.
Start Year 2017
Description HNUE 
Organisation Hanoi National University of Education
Country Viet Nam 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The team from the University of Leeds has provided training in ecosystem services, participatory approaches, stakeholder analysis through training workshops associated with project meetings in Hanoi.
Collaborator Contribution the co-investigator based at HNUE is contributing ecological expertise to the project. They have specific mangrove ecological knowledge which will enable the research team to ground-truth the remote sensed data. They have also assisted in facilitating field-based research, particularly for our Hull partners.
Impact The work under this partnership is on-going. Initial fieldwork to install a series of water level and turbidity sensors throughout the mangrove forest to collect data relating to sediment and water dispersal through the mangrove system, to collect sediment samples from the mangroves to obtain typical grain sizes and compositions of material being deposited in the mangroves, and to collect flow data and sediment samples from the Thai Binh River, has all been successfully completed.
Start Year 2017
Description Investigating sources, amounts and impacts of plastics in mangroves 
Organisation University of Hull
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contributed objectives to proposed research focussed on plastic waste trapped by mangroves at one of our study sites. These objectives seek to understand perceptions held by coastal communities about the sources of plastic waste, its impact on ecosystem services delivered by mangroves locally, and to identify appropriate strategies to reduce waste and impacts.
Collaborator Contribution Colleagues at the University of Hull contributed objectives to identify sources of plastics and quantify the amounts trapped. The University of Hull led the development of the funding application which was submitted to the Royal Geographic Society in February 2019
Impact A funding application to the Royal Geographic Society Environment and Sustainability Grant funding call in February 2019.
Start Year 2019
Description VAST 
Organisation Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology
Country Viet Nam 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in Ecosystem Services, participatory research and collaborative approaches to research through training workshops run by the UK team during project meetings in Hanoi. Our intellectual input to the collaboration is through our contribution of research on the social science aspects of mangrove ecosystem services in the Red River Delta. We are working towards spatial representation of perceptions of ecosystem service delivery that can be combined with remote sensing data.
Collaborator Contribution Our co-investigator is based in the The Vietnam National Satellite Centre, part of VAST. They are co-leading workpackage 1 on the project that focuses on remote sensing to map ecosystem services in mangroves in the Red River Delta. They have been contributing expertise in remote sensing, particularly working with SPOT images and data. They are also contributing expertise in GIS as an approach to combine remote sensed and social science data, and as a tool to enable planning practitioners to evaluate the impact of decisions on the provision of mangrove ecosystem services. They have also contributed SPOT data, purchased via the linked funding they have received from NAFOSTED for this project.
Impact A conference paper has been accepted to FIG Working Week 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam April 22-26, 2019. The paper focuses on the remote sensing approach, but has had input from other members of the research team (Hong Quang Nguyen, Thi Van Hue Le, Claire Quinn, Rachael Carrie, Thi Thanh Nga Pham, Lindsay Stringer, and Van Tan Dao. 2019 Spatial Planning Influences Mangrove Forest Development in Kim Son District of Ninh Binh Province).
Start Year 2017
Description Engagement with MARD, MONRE, forest department, agriculture department 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact These were a series of small meetings with key stakeholders in MARD, MONRE, the departments of Forestry and of Agriculture, and with commune and village heads. These meetings introduced the research and engaged the stakeholders in discussions about mangrove resources, use and management in the study area
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
Description Public lecture, University of Quindio, Armenia, Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented work including that from the resilient mangroves project as part of a talk I gave at the University of Quindío. Several of the academics present were interested in future research collaborations potentially using the kinds of methods in this project in future research on mangroves in Colombia. There were lots of questions following the talk from policy makers and practitioners who were interested in the spatial planning side of things. Even though there are no mangroves in Quindío province, they could see similarities with work they were doing. I was surprised too about the disciplinary mix of the audience, with people from the University coming from faculties of biology, engineering, computer science etc as well as the more social science disciplines.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Resilient Mangroves Social Media Activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Twitter and linked Facebook pages and a project website were developed to engage a wide ranging audience with our research activities and issues/events related to our project and the methods we are using. Over 20,000 people have seen our posts on Twitter, ,with 523 direct engagements. This has resulted in consistent increases in people following our activities (275 as at 08/03/2019) and requests for further information about our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019
Description Scenarios workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Scenarios workshops were held in our study communities and attended by individuals representing different uses of mangrove socio-ecological systems as well as local organisations (e.g. farming groups). In these workshops the participants worked with researchers to explore possible future scenarios for mangrove systems and explored what that would mean for management, and livelihoods. These workshops were well attended and stimulated significant debate and discussion about the future of these systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020