Research from the National University of Singapore (NUS) highlights the growing concern of mangrove degradation, using Myanmar as a case study. Myanmar has suffered mangrove deforestation at increasingly alarming rates and the study suggests that over the last twenty years, over 60% of all mangroves in Myanmar have been permanently or temporarily converted to other uses.
Mangroves are some of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, despite the fact that they make up a mere 0.7% of the Earth's tropical forest area. They provide many valuable ecosystem services, such as serving as a nursery habitat for fish species, offering protection against coastal surges associated with storms and tsunamis, and storing carbon. Yet, according to Science Daily, previous studies have shown that mangrove deforestation rates in the past decade are higher than the deforestation of inland terrestrial forests.
The research was led by Associate Professor Edward Webb and Mr. Jose Don De Alban from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science and was published online in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The researchers accessed satellite imagery to analyze mangrove conversion areas from 1996 through 2016. They looked at 30 x 30-meter plots of mangrove and saw how the land converted to rice paddies, palm oil and rubber tree plantations, and urban development over the years.
"Although fish and prawn farms accounted for only a minor amount of mangrove conversion, this may change in the near future. These competing land cover types are commercially important but incompatible with mangrove persistence," said Mr. De Alban.
The researchers say their findings speak to the urgency of improved protection for mangroves. "The fate of mangroves in the country will be tied to the strength of policies and implementation of conservation measures. Through proper long-term planning, management, and conservation, this resilient ecosystem can recover and be maintained for the future," shared Webb.