Dencer-Brown, Amrit Melissa, Andrea C. Alfaro, & Simon Milne (2019, May). Muddied waters: Perceptions and attitudes towards mangroves and their removal in New Zealand. Sustainability, 11(9), art. 2631, 33 pp. (Open access) (doi: 10.3390/su11092631) (Link:

Abstract: Seaward expansion of New Zealand’s mangrove Avicennia marina (subsp.) australasica in estuaries has led to disparity in opinion over their social-ecological value. This study investigated existing stakeholders and interested parties’ perceptions and attitudes towards mangroves, focusing on four sites in Auckland. A mixed methods design was used consisting of semi-structured interviews, ratings of importance of mangrove ecosystem services and issues and Q-sorts on mangrove social-ecological statements. 29 participants were interviewed in person. Results revealed a disparity in perceptions and attitudes towards mangroves. Community Groups displayed strongly negative opinions towards mangrove preservation and Conservation Organisations expressed a strongly positive stance. The occupation of participants was a significant factor in the ratings. Overall, sediment and nutrient retention were rated as the most important ecosystem services. The desire for reversion of estuaries to a "pre-mangrove" state is the greatest issue affecting mangroves. Q-analysis revealed loading of participants onto two factors representing (1) a pro-preservation attitude towards mangrove and (2) a neutral view. Managing sediment loads and nutrient runoff in the wider catchment were highlighted as ways to reduce mangrove expansion. Improving water quality and the health of the harbour was of utmost priority to kaitiaki (Māori guardians of the environment). This study provides critical insights into the management of mangroves as social-ecological systems.

Andrea C. Alfaro <> is in the School of Science, Institute for Applied Ecology, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

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