Mangrove forests, though essentially common and wide-spread, are highly threatened. Local societies along with their knowledge about the mangrove also are endangered, while they are still underrepresented as scientific research topics. With the present study we document local utilization patterns, and perception of ecosystem change. We illustrate how information generated by ethnobiological research can be used to strengthen the management of the ecosystem. This study was conducted in the Godavari mangrove forest located in the East-Godavari District of the state Andhra Pradesh in India, where mangroves have been degrading due to over-exploitation, extensive development of aquaculture, and pollution from rural and urbanized areas (Kakinada).One hundred interviews were carried out among the fisherfolk population present in two mangrove zones in the study area, a wildlife sanctuary with strong conservation status and an adjacent zone. Results from the interviews indicated that Avicennia marina (Forsk.) Vierh., a dominant species in the Godavari mangroves, is used most frequently as firewood and for construction. Multiple products of the mangrove included the bark of Ceriops decandra (Griff.) Ding Hou to dye the fishing nets and improve their durability, the bark of Aegiceras corniculatum (L.) Blanco to poison and catch fish, and the leaves of Avicennia spp. and Excoecaria agallocha L. as fodder for cattle. No medicinal uses of true mangrove species were reported, but there were a few traditional uses for mangrove associates. Utilization patterns varied in the two zones that we investigated, most likely due to differences in their ecology and legal status. The findings are discussed in relation with the demographic and socio-economic traits of the fisherfolk communities of the Godavari mangroves and indicate a clear dependency of their livelihood on the mangrove forest.Reported changes in the Godavari mangrove cover also differed in the two zones, with significantly less perceptions of a decrease in the protected area, as compared to the adjacent non-protected area. A posteriori comparisons between sequential satellite imagery (retrospective till 1977) and respondents that were at least 15 years back then, revealed a mangrove decrease which was however perceived to different extents depending on the area with which the fishermen were familiar. While local needs had not been incorporated in the existing policy, we created a framework on how data on ethnobotanical traditions, fishery-related activities and local people's perceptions of change can be incorporated into management strategies.
London: Biomed Central , 2006. Vol. 2, 24- p.