Business, Conservation, Sustainability

Study Unveils Roots of Mangrove Deforestation

Tall-stilt Mangroves (Rhizophora apiculata) in Batang Salak Estuary North of Kuching, Sarawak, MALAYSIA.
Tall-stilt Mangroves (Rhizophora apiculata) in Batang Salak Estuary North of Kuching, Sarawak, MALAYSIA. Photo: Bernard Dupont | FlickrCC.

Mangrove forests provide a number of ecological services to animals and people. They provide excellent cover for young fish to hide both from predators and from storms, which benefit other animals as well. They also store much higher levels of carbon than most other ecosystems, which make them valuable globally in the fight to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change.

Unfortunately, in Southeast Asia, which is home to the greatest variety of mangrove species on the planet, deforestation is having a huge impact on these ecosystems. Between 2002 and 2012, two percent of the mangrove forests in Southeast Asia were removed so that the land could be used for other purposes.

While these numbers are actually smaller than expected, they are still too high. This is still a substantial loss and one destined to affect Southeast Asia and the world for decades to come. Most of the forests were cut down to provide additional land for rice or palm oil cultivation. Myanmar considers rice production crucial for food security, while Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand promote palm oil production for economic and energy security.

As demand for these items is expected to increase in the near future, due to a growing global population and increasing global affluence, the problems caused by mangrove deforestation will continue to persist and worsen.

With this information in mind, scientists are trying to make the case of mangrove conservation. With a better understanding of what mangrove deforestation does to local ecosystems and the world at large, it will be easier to make arguments for that conservation. And, with a greater understanding of policies causing deforestation and the rates at which that deforestation happens, it will be easier to formulate plans to halt, if not reverse, those damages.

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