Despite the recent better understanding and awareness of the role of mangroves, these coastal forest communities continue to be destroyed or degraded (or euphemistically reclaimed) at an alarming rate. The figure of 1% per year given by Ong (1982) for Malaysia can be taken as a conservative estimate of destruction of mangroves in the Asia-Pacific region. Whilst the Japanese-based mangrove wood-chips industry continues in its destructive path through the larger mangrove ecosystems of the region, the focus of mangrove destruction has shifted to the conversion of mangrove areas into aquaculture ponds and the consequences of the unprecedented massive addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by post industrial man.
Mangroves are non-homogeneous; characterised by distinct vegetative zones that occupy the interface between land and sea and dynamically interacting with the atmosphere above as well as with the influences of the adjacent land and sea. The conservation of mangroves should thus include not only the various vegetation and tidal inundation zones but also the adjacent marine and terrestrial areas (including the water catchment area).
On the current concern with global climate change, it is pointed out that relative sea level change is very much site dependent. For effective planning and management, it is vital to know if a particular site is stable, rising or sinking so efforts should be directed to find suitable methods for determining this. However, should rapid relative sea level rise take place, there is very little likelihood of saving mangroves whose landward margins have been developed by man, a fact to bear in mind when selecting sites for conservation. The Matang mangroves of Malaysia is rare case of successful sustainable management of a tropical rain forest. Although the tools of management are available they are not widely applied. We particularly urge the Japanese mangrove wood-chips industry to look to long term sustainable use rather than short term gains. A suggestion is made to appeal to the new Government of Japan to take the lead in environmental friendliness especially to the rain forests of the Asia-Pacific region.
Key wordsmangrove ecology conservation management climate change
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