Mangrove forests, vital for the conservation of biodiversity, protection of coastlines, and carbon capture, are decreasing globally at a rate higher than most other tropical forests. They are threatened by sea level rise, drought and storm surge, especially on low-lying islands where forests are directly exposed to the elements and have limited land area. We investigated changes in the spatial extent of mangroves on Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles – a protected area without direct human pressures, over 21 years using Landsat images. Over the 21-year study period, mean mangrove extent was 1283 ha with an overall net increase of 60 ha (0.23% year-1). The majority of extent changes were small (<2 ha) and contiguous to the existing mangrove extent. We then assessed the relation of mangrove cover change along the lagoon coastline with wave power (rate of energy transfer by waves), using fetch measures and local wind data. We found lower wave power values for stable mangrove areas than for areas that had gained or lost mangroves from 1997 to 2018. We identified wave power thresholds of 2.3 W m-1 for stable mangrove and 7.1 W m-1 for mangrove occurrence. These thresholds might be valuable for assessing threats and sites with the greatest potential for mangrove restoration across similar areas worldwide. Our results highlight the importance of quantifying mangrove extent changes at a local scale to assist with planning for the protection and restoration of this ecologically important habitat, given its vulnerability to the pressures associated with climate change.