Unsustainable human activities and climate change are threatening the sustainability of coastal ecosystems in countries of West-Central Africa. This paper advocates that focusing on mangrove ecosystem management can potentially mitigate these threats by pointing out clues on management orientations and opportunities for other coastal systems. This article elucidates this point by using evidence from informal interviews with stakeholders and expert-led literature reviews to assess mangrove conservation interventions implemented between 2000 and 2014 across countries of West Africa and Cameroon. Results show that many institutions are taking actions in countries of West Africa and Cameroon to conserve and restore mangroves. These interventions may be slowing down the rate of mangrove forest loss across West-Central Africa. However, this recovery does not appear to be benefiting other coastal ecosystems. This unequal distribution may be linked to the increasing challenges plaguing coastal ecosystems management, and hence the effectiveness of mangrove conservation efforts in this region. These problems are both internal and external to institutions, undertaking targeted interventions. External challenges are beyond the control of implementing organizations and synergize with internal institutional deficiencies to impede overall coastal ecosystem sustainability. Improving overall coastal ecosystems sustainability in this region will, therefore, require a coordinated approach between all stakeholders that are directly or indirectly influencing coastal ecosystems. In this regard, practitioners need to improve the effectiveness of traditional conservation practices, expand conservation efforts and funding mechanisms as well as develop integrated strategies that encompass all activities that affect coastal ecosystems, in a vertical and horizontal manner.
Key words: Mangroves, coastal ecosystems, conservation effort, conservation challenges, ecosystem services.
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