PLANT­ING THE RIGHT MANGROVE SPECIES IS CRIT­I­CAL

Agriculture - - Small Is Beautiful - >BY DR. RAFAEL D. GUERRERO III

MAN­GROVES con­sist of shrubs and trees that grow in the mid­dle and up­per in­ter­tidal zone (be­tween low and high tides of the sea) of our coasts that are “in­un­dated not more than 30% of the time.” As an ecosys­tem, man­groves pro­vide not only di­rect ben­e­fits such as wood and other for­est prod­ucts, but also many other en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices like the pro­tec­tion of beaches and coast­lines from storm surges, waves, floods, and soil ero­sion. They also serve as habi­tats and nurs­ery grounds for nu­mer­ous ter­res­trial and aquatic or­gan­isms, and as stor­age for car­bon and sed­i­ment. The to­tal value of man­groves has been es­ti­mated to be US$14,16616,142 per hectare per year, with 63-67% of which is al­lot­ted for coastal pro­tec­tion. The amount of car­bon that is stored or se­questered in man­groves is four times more than that in rain­forests, and this makes man­groves very im­por­tant for cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion.

From the 400,000-500,000 hectares of man­groves in our coun­try in 1918, only 256,000-263,000 hectares re­mained in 2001 due to con­ver­sion into fish­ponds and hu­man set­tle­ments as well as for in­dus­trial pur­poses. There is a Na­tional Green­ing Pro­gram led by the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources to plant mangrove species in de­for­ested and af­forested ar­eas through­out the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Jur­genne Pri­mav­era, a mangrove spe­cial­ist of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Philip­pines and chief sci­en­tific mangrove ad­vi­sor of the Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of Lon­don, there are about 35 mangrove species in the coun­try. Based on the tidal zone, there are mangrove plants like the “pa­gat­pat” ( Son­ner­a­tia alba) that grow well in the low­est part of the zone where the sub­stra­tum is sandy and ex­po­sure to the sea­wa­ter is high­est, and there are species like the “bun­ga­lon” ( Avi­cen­nia ma­rina) and the “bakawan” ( Rhi­zophora sp.) that thrive bet­ter in the mid­dle and up­per parts of the zone that have a muddy sub­stra­tum and lesser ex­po­sure to the sea.

Plant­ing the wrong mangrove species in the wrong place can be use­less and waste­ful, Dr. Pri­mav­era as­serts. In a 63-hectare mangrove re­for­esta­tion area in Ivisan, Capiz, for in­stance, the plant­ing of “bun­ga­lon” in the low in­ter­tidal area did not work out be­cause the trans­planted seedlings had a very low sur­vival of only 5%; in ad­di­tion, a heavy in­fes­ta­tion of bar­na­cles and fil­a­men­tous al­gae smoth­ered the plants. How­ever, the seedlings of “pa­gat­pat” planted in a seven-hectare sea front area in Iba­jay, Ak­lan en­joyed a 50-80% sur­vival rate.

In the Com­mu­nity-based Mangrove Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Train­ing Man­ual pro­duced by theTrop­i­cal For­est Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion, Inc. (www.zsl.org/man­groves/man­ual), a 100me­ter “Green Belt” of man­groves for pro­tect­ing coastal beaches and a ra­tio of four hectares of man­groves to a hectare of fish­pond for sus­tain­able coastal aqua­cul­ture is rec­om­mended.

Car­ing for young mangrove plants in a coastal area.

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