19 July 2010

World Atlas of Mangroves: all is not lost, yet

“Mangrove forests are the ultimate illustration of why humans need nature,” said Mark Spalding, lead author of the new World Atlas of Mangroves. (Especially if you love durians, you should love mangroves! Here's why).
Mangroves generate between US$2-9k per hectare annually, considerably more than alternative uses such as aquaculture, agriculture or insensitive tourism. The waters around mangroves foster some of the greatest productivity of fish and shellfish in any coastal waters. Mangrove forests help prevent erosion and are natural coastal defenses. Despite restoration efforts by some countries, mangroves are being lost at a rate three to four times higher than land-based forests, with one fifth of all of the world’s mangroves thought to have been lost in the past three decades.

Here's some interesting mangrove facts that I learnt through articles about the Atlas:

  • The nations with the largest mangrove areas include Indonesia with 21% of global mangroves, Brazil with 9%, Australia 7%, Mexico 5% and Nigeria with 5%.
  • The greatest drivers for mangrove forest loss are direct conversion to aquaculture, agriculture and urban land uses.
  • Where vast tracts of mangroves have been cleared for shrimp aquaculture, fast profits often left a legacy of long-term debts and poverty, which are hard to reverse. Mark Spalding said "it is incredible to zoom in on satellite imagery and suddenly find mile after mile of rectangular "fields" of water, separated by embankments, where once there were mangroves--in Ecuador, Honduras, Thailand, China, the Philippines and elsewhere."
  • According to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) mangrove losses have been considerable and are continuing. Some 35,600 square kilometers were lost between 1980 and 2005.
  • Mangroves are also among the most important intertidal habitats for marine and coastal fisheries. Mangrove related species have been estimated to support 30% of fish catch and almost 100% of shrimp catch in South-East Asian countries, while mangroves and associated habitats in Queensland, Australia support 75% of commercial fisheries species
  • In the Philippines, state-wide encouragement of aquaculture dating back to the 1950s led to massive losses. In Malaysia, by contrast, state ownership of mangroves prevails. While there have still been losses, large areas remain in forest reserves, managed for timber and charcoal production, with concomitant benefits for fisheries.
What about mangrove restoration?
  • Mangroves can be restored, quite easily in fact. Mangrove plantations, using native species, can be good for wildlife as well as for timber production. Trends of mangrove gain or loss can be rapidly and quite dramatically reversed.
  • Some of the least successful efforts have come from big money, top-down approaches: remarkable failures involving planting the wrong species in the wrong places. But wonderful successes too. Of course some of these were also the big schemes, but many of the more successful efforts came from local initiatives.
More than 100 top mangrove researchers and organizations provided data, reviews and other input for the World Mangrove Atlas, a joint effort of UNEP, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and other groups.

Full media articles on wildsingapore news.

To buy the book, link thanks to Dr John Yong.

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