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World Environment Day 2019: Brazil's mangroves on the front line of climate change

Updated : 2019-06-05 09:41:13

Fishermen like Jose da Cruz have made their living for decades hunting for crabs among Brazil's vast coastal mangrove forests, dense thickets of twisted plants in deep black mud that grow where fresh-water rivers meet the brackish Atlantic Ocean. Cruz doesn't use a rod and reel or a net. Instead he parks his two-foot-wide boat at the shore of the Caratingui river and wends his way on foot through the tangle of mangroves to dig out crabs with his hands from the dark muck. The four or five dozen he captures in a day will earn Cruz about 200 reais ($50) per week, enough to get by, he said. But this tenuous livelihood is facing a series of threats, including rapid alterations to the environment caused by climate change, and Cruz's average daily catch is half of what it was 10 years ago. In that time, the water line has advanced 3 meters inland from where it used to be, according to Cruz. Climate scientists lend credence to Cruz's interpretation of what he sees. Rising water levels, they say, are a sign of global warming, which also causes water temperatures to rise, killing off some marine life. Globally, scientists have warned that water temperatures are increasing far faster than expected, which drives rising sea levels. Climate change and human development are putting 1 million species, a large share of which live in marine environments, at risk of extinction, according to a report published this year. These changes in turn are threatening the dozen or so families in Cruz's village that depend on the coastal ecosystem.

Fisherman Jose da Cruz, who is known by the nickname Vampire because of his distinctive teeth, rides his boat towards mangrove forests to catch crabs on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz, who is known by the nickname Vampire because of his distinctive teeth, rides his boat towards mangrove forests to catch crabs on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
The boat belonging to fisherman Jose da Cruz floats outside his house on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
The boat belonging to fisherman Jose da Cruz floats outside his house on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz stands next to a tub with crabs outside his house, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz stands next to a tub with crabs outside his house, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz listens to the radio inside his house, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz listens to the radio inside his house, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Vandeka, the wife of fisherman Jose da Cruz, harvests mangrove oysters on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Vandeka, the wife of fisherman Jose da Cruz, harvests mangrove oysters on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz walks holding a sack filled with crabs he caught at mangrove forests on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz walks holding a sack filled with crabs he caught at mangrove forests on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz catches crabs inside mangrove forests on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz catches crabs inside mangrove forests on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
The unofficial community known as
The unofficial community known as "The Train," because of the mud houses arranged in a single file along the edge of the Caratingui river like train cars, is seen next to mangrove forests, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz catches crabs inside mangrove forests on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz catches crabs inside mangrove forests on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Vandeka, wife of fisherman Jose da Cruz, harvests mangrove oysters on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Vandeka, wife of fisherman Jose da Cruz, harvests mangrove oysters on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fishermen riding their boats are seen through a window, on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fishermen riding their boats are seen through a window, on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz  leaves mangrove forests after catching crabs on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Fisherman Jose da Cruz  leaves mangrove forests after catching crabs on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, state of Bahia, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
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