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Mangrove forests are among the most biologically diverse and spectacular environments on earth. So diverse it is almost impossible to define them apart from the fact that they lie along the coast in the tropics. They play home to endemic jungle animals and plants that survive where no others could; being specially adapted to the low oxygen levels, high saline and challenging terrain.
The vastest area of mangrove forest lies in the Sundarbans or ‘beautiful forest’ as it is known in Bengali. The region is covered in dense tropical vegetation within which endangered rhinos and tigers roam. Natives from Bangladesh venture into the forest to harvest its bounty of fruits, teas and medicines, using it as a sort of poor-man’s supermarket. The locals are, however, relatively committed to using the forest sustainably.
The Langkawi mangrove forest (as pictured above) is a huge tourism attraction to Malaysia bringing in copious amounts of GDP from anything from golf courses to boat tours. However the dark side of this tourism is the fragmentation of habitats leading to dispersed wildlife. The Mangrove Action Project aims to reduce these impacts and encourage the implementation of eco-tourism and sustainable use of the forests. However the illegal loggers aren’t exactly thrilled by The Mangrove Action Project plans to protect the ecosystem, but the most recent report on the deforestation of mangroves shows their action is needed more than ever.
It has been discovered that over 200 metres of mangrove forest is disappearing each year due to these logging and commercial fishing activities. If this were to continue at the same rate in 10 years time species like the Bengal Tiger and the amazingly adapted tree climbing crab could be lost in the wild, if not altogether. This is as well as the disastrous effects to the local climate as circulatory patterns are disrupted and global climates as decades of carbon is released from the forest and into the already suffocating atmosphere.
The Mangrove Action Project identifies shrimp farming as the biggest obstacle needed to be overcome in the reforestation of mangrove forests. But protected areas will also need to be increased as 7%, which is what it currently stands at, will not ensure these wondrous ecosystems will be in existence for generations to come.
By Jessica Brand
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham