Sabang Mangrove Forest is a century old mangrove forest within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (File Photo)

More than 75 percent of mangroves are under threat and the world cannot afford to lose the unique ecosystems, the head of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said Tuesday.

“Mangroves are in danger: it is estimated that more than three-quarters of mangroves in the world are now threatened and with them all the fine balances that depend on them,” Audrey Azoulay said in a statement for International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem.

The day, which has been celebrated July 26 annually since 2015, aims to raise awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystems as “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem.”

Regarding the mangrove’s role in tackling climate change, she said the world cannot afford to lose these ecosystems as they are also carbon sinks.

UN figures indicate that a hectare of mangrove forest can store 3,754 tons of carbon, the equivalent of taking more than 2,650 cars off the road for one year.

“This is why UNESCO is acting to protect them, along with other valuable blue carbon ecosystems, through its geoparks, world heritage sites, and biosphere reserves,” said Azoulay, adding that UNESCO will launch new mangrove restoration projects in Latin America.

She also underlined the need for global awareness as well as the protection and restoration of mangroves, which would be possible by “educating and alerting the public.”

Since mangroves grow along tropical coastlines and in saltwater environments on the boundary between land and sea, they are seen as a critical component of marine ecosystems, serving as nursery grounds for many aquatic species, including commercially important fish species.

Mangroves also reduce the effects of storms and keep coastal erosion under control as it is known that mangroves reduced the effects of the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami.