Malaysia’s mangrove forests are rapidly decreasing and deteriorating | News | Eco Business

Mangrove forests in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak are being rapidly cleared due to pressure from population growth in coastal areas.

Constantly changing demographics are leading to changes in land use and overexploitation of resources.

The decline of mangroves is due to rapid economic development of coastal areas, apart from unsustainable forestry practices, land conversion/reclamation for agriculture, aquaculture, mining, industry, port expansion, urbanization, tourism, and infrastructure development. It’s getting worse.

“For example, many mangrove reserves that were gazetted during the colonial period have since been removed from the gazette and made available for other uses,” says the Malaysian Institute of Coastal and Marine Environment (MIMA). said senior researcher Cheryl Rita Kaul.

And even the mangrove forests that survived the onslaught are being choked by coastal pollution from household and industrial waste.

“We therefore need to find a balance between meeting today’s growing needs while preserving the environmental support system that mangroves provide,” she said.

Can this be achieved?

Of course, governments have many options to achieve such goals.

He said that given the potential for multiple uses of mangroves, it is essential to manage mangrove-based terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the context of integrated coastal zone management plans.

This essentially requires collaboration and engagement between various institutions and stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of current and future mangrove resources.

“For example, the MIMA International Conference on Mangroves a few years ago called for a ‘zero net loss’ policy, the goal of which is to balance losses caused by economic development through reclamation, mitigation and restoration efforts; As a result, the total area of ​​mangroves will decrease.The area of ​​mangrove forests in the country will not decrease, but will tend to remain constant or, if possible, increase.

“One of the good examples related to this approach is the Matang mangrove forest in Perak state. With an integrated management approach and strong support from the government, this forest is one of the best under sustainable forest management system in Malaysia. “It is one of the best managed areas and is also recognized as the best managed mangrove forest in the world,” she said.

Current status of mangroves in Malaysia

The total area of ​​mangroves in Malaysia is estimated to be approximately 575,000 hectares, of which 60 percent is found in Sabah, 23 percent in Sarawak, and the remaining 17 percent in the peninsula.

Of the total, 85% are gazetted as forest preserves, wildlife refuges, RAMSAR sites, and state and national parks. For example, there are five mangrove-based RAMSAR sites in Malaysia, including Kukupu Island, Tanjung Piai, Sungai Pulai, Kuching Wetlands, and Kinabatangan.

However, Malaysia’s mangrove forests are said to have decreased by 30% over the past 50 years, from 800,000 hectares in the 1950s to 575,000 hectares today.

The areas with the most mangrove forest loss are Perlis, Selangor, Johor, Sarawak, Negeri Sembilan and Penang.

The crisis of the depleted mangrove ecosystem

Mangroves are unique in their ability to adapt to particularly harsh environments. Mangroves act as buffers against storm surges and strong winds, stabilizing shorelines and protecting coastal areas.

Acting as an effective natural barrier against tsunamis, typhoons, cyclones, and storm surges resulting from global warming is critical.

The important role of coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, in maintaining the climate is also becoming increasingly recognized.

“For example, the term ‘blue carbon’ sink/storage is used to further define this. Of all the biological carbon (or green carbon) captured worldwide, more than half (55 percent) is captured by marine life rather than on land, hence the name blue carbon. “Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases continue to rise, contributing to climate change,” she said.

Additionally, Sherrill said that while carbon emissions are increasing in many countries, especially those undergoing periods of high economic growth, mangrove forests, which are classified as “blue carbon” sinks/stores, He said that due to the decrease in carbon dioxide, their ability to absorb carbon dioxide is also decreasing. reduction.

“And these data, records and various other global efforts in this regard have largely helped policymakers mainstream mangrove ecosystems into national and international climate change efforts.” she concluded.

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