03 January 2018

Can restore mangroves without planting, meh?

YES! We can change the ground conditions so Mother Nature can do the planting. In fact, it is often better for humans NOT to plant for a rich and healthy mangrove to take root.
Natural mangrove sapling recruitment at Pulau Ubin
Here's more about mangrove restoration at Pulau Ubin WITHOUT doing planting. It is a ground-up effort by a community team called R.U.M.!


Who is R.U.M.?

Volunteers of the Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M) Initiative wants to re-create wild mangroves in deep holes left behind by aquaculture ponds abandoned for decades.
Free mangrove walk with Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative
Families looking at an abandoned aquaculture pond
during a free monthly R.U.M. public walk.

R.U.M. includes experts from tertiary institutions, NGOs, commercial enterprises that depend on Ubin mangroves, and individual enthusiasts, with the support of the National Parks Board.
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative field trip

How does R.U.M hope to restore mangroves at Pulau Ubin?

As the R.U.M. logo suggests, they hope to let Mother Nature do the planting! Also known as Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR), this is done by creating the ideal conditions for mangrove babies.
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative logo

Mangrove seeds and seedlings will settle and grow naturally in suitable conditions. But like Goldilocks in the story with the three bears, conditions must be 'just nice'.
Young saplings at Loyang mangrove
Young mangrove trees growing naturally where it's 'just nice'.

The water level should not be too shallow or too deep for the mangrove seedlings. Water flows not too fast or too slow. In conditions that are 'just nice' for them, mangroves will naturally flourish.
Various mangrove seedlings washed ashore
Different kinds of mangrove seedlings can settle
and grow best at different depths.

If we just plant mangroves without considering these factors, the seedlings will die. Wasting time, effort and money. Until we fix the ground conditions, planting will continue to fail.

Why is Ecological Mangrove Restoration better than planting mangroves?

Instead of planting, it is also better to create conditions for mangroves to naturally establish because Mother Nature plants a rich forest. That is, many different kinds of trees and plants will settle, instead of one or a few kinds in typical planted mangroves.
Natural mangrove sapling recruitment at Pulau Ubin
A natural mangrove has many different kinds of trees.

A natural mangrove forest tends to support a richer diversity of wildlife as different kinds of trees and plants provide a wider variety of shelter and food. It will also be more resilient to disease.
Herons nesting at Pasir Ris mangroves
A rich natural mangrove forest shelters and feeds
a wide variety of animals from air, land and sea.

Thus, a natural forest will be better at providing good water quality and other important ecosystem services such as a nursery for seafood that fish farmers and fishermen rely on for a living.
Cast netting in the mangroves, Pulau Ubin
By re-creating 'just nice' conditions for mangroves, Ecological Mangrove Restoration aims to give Mother Nature a hand. Thus allowing mangroves to naturally establish in abandoned aquaculture ponds.

How is Ecological Mangrove Restoration done?

Ecological Mangrove Restoration is somewhat like doing surgery to restore someone's health. Before we do the surgery, we need to do a non-invasive MRI or X-ray to find out the ground conditions. Only then will we know how to do the surgery with minimal harm to the person, and maximise the chances of full recovery.

The first step is to map the area which we want to restore. For example, the abandoned aquaculture ponds: how deep are they? what are the water conditions in them?
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative practicing mapping mangroves
Scientists mapping the ground conditions.

As well as to map healthy forests so we know what conditions mangroves like. So we can re-create these conditions in the abandoned aquaculture ponds.
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative mapping mangroves
Also mapping a natural mangrove forest.

The second step is to adjust conditions in the abandoned aquaculture ponds so they match the healthy forests. After which, we can stand back and allow Mother Nature to do the planting.

What step is R.U.M. at now?

R.U.M. has completed mapping and is ready to go to the second step: Designing the mangrove restoration.

It is important to R.U.M. that the community have a part to play in designing the mangrove restoration. Their hope is to restore Ubin mangroves not just ecologically and biologically, but also socially and culturally. To restore the value of mangroves to the community on Ubin and beyond.

YOU are invited to contribute to designing the mangrove restoration!

20 Jan 2018 (Sat): "Our Mangroovy Mangroves" - FREE Workshop at Pulau Ubin
For the first time, R.U.M. is organising a visit to the actual site where R.U.M. hopes to carry out Ecological Mangrove Restoration! After this guided visit, join a workshop to brainstorm YOUR ideas on how we should design the restoration of mangroves at Ubin! Registration now open, places are limited.

More details and registration online.

This workshop is organised by youths of Lepak In SG for International Year of the Reef 2018 with the support of the National Parks Board and Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative.

This article is written for Celebrating Singapore Shores as part of International Year of the Reef 2018.

Celebrating Singapore shores for IYOR 2018 logo

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