• What is the distribution of Mangroves in Malaysia and Perak?
• Why Mangrove should be protected?
• How to support mangrove biodiversity in Perak?
Mangroves play a key role in protection from strong winds and waves, soil stabilization and erosion protection, flood mitigation, and preventing contamination of nearshore waters. Thus, it acts as first line of defense in protecting shorelines and riverbanks against erosion which can have costly impact in restoration. The benefits of mangrove go beyond just protecting shorelines, it is a refuge for wildlife by acting as nursery grounds for many species of marine fish, shellfish and crustaceans, and as a refuge for wildlife.
During the past decades’ rapid development in the region including Malaysia have led to widespread of land use changes which includes conversion of mangroves. This has led to deterioration of coastal ecosystems especially the reduction of aquatic animals and coastal erosion even at the river mouth areas. Mangrove ecosystem destruction has both direct and indirect effects on these various environmental concerns and has led to marginalisation of rural coastal communities.
MANGROVES DISTRIBUTION IN PENINSULAR MALAYSIA
In Peninsular Malaysia, the total extent of mangroves in 2015 is 103,427 ha. About 89,626 ha (86.7%) are gazetted as Permanent Reserved Forests (PRFs) while the remaining 13,801 ha are stateland mangroves.
Mangroves in Peninsular Malaysia are found mainly on the sheltered west coast that borders the Straits of Malacca in the States Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Johor. On the east coast, mangroves are confined to sheltered estuaries of the Kemaman River in Terengganu and Bebar River in Pahang.
MANGROVES IN PERAK
Perak has an impressive record in maintaining forest reserve especially Matang Mangroves. According to Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia (JPSM) Annual report 2009, a total of 991,436 ha., of forest in Perak have been gazetted as Permanent Reserved Forest (PRF) which is about 95% of the total 1.03 million ha., of total forest in the State. Perak is the largest home to mangroves in Peninsular Malaysia and it covers about 42,269 ha., of land area. They are found in several areas throughout Perak, noticeably in Hulu Perak, Kerian, Kuala Kangsar, Larut Matang, Batang Padang, Perak Tengah and Hilir Perak. From these districts, four reside along the coastline of Perak stretching 201.2 km from the north of Kerian to the south of Hilir Perak district facing the Malacca Straits.
These areas do not just accommodate mangroves but also over 31,000 people live within 10 kilometres of large mangrove forests along the Perak’s coast. They benefit from a variety of goods and services including fisheries and forest products and clean water.
Data of Perak Forestry Department in Figure 2 shows that a total mangrove area (in hectares) in the State has remained stable and moving on an upward trend over the last decade except from 2007 to 2010 when the data showed a drop from the normal trend. One possible explanation to the drop is the time-line of the downtrend coincide with the period of intensive aquaculture development which has a negative effect on mangroves.
However, the steady growth on mangroves for the last decade may not reflect the actual situation. This could be a realistic overview of the actual situation, or it could be a reflection of the data collected. For instance, annual data analysis of satellite images may be covering different areas, or use different analysis techniques. Another factor could be that mangroves are a very “elastic” type of forest ecosystem (ie, they can bounce back from disturbance very quickly) and in some areas they will be accreting (increasing in area) and in other places eroding (decreasing in area) depending on the coastal geomorphology. The figures may also not be a true reflection of actual mangrove forested area, but could be simply the total area of mangrove forested reserves whether they have mangroves in them or not.
MANGROVES BY DISTRICT
Overall, the distribution of mangroves by the district in Perak is found to be the largest in Larut Matang with an area of 27,680.23 ha., followed by Kerian at 11,818.32 ha., Only small patches of mangroves are found in Manjung and Hilir Perak with total areas of 2,357.31 ha and 1,436.11 ha., respectively, as shown in Map 1 and Figure 3.
BENEFIT OF MANGROVES
Mangroves and their associated biodiversity are not only significant in the aspect of ecology but also in the economic development. The mangroves play a critical role in supporting human well-being through climate regulation, food security and poverty reduction. In general, mangroves are sources of:
• Fisheries: Mangroves are home to a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species. These fisheries form an essential source of food for thousands of coastal communities that live within the vicinity and around the world. The forests also serve as nurseries for many marine animal species, including coral reef fish.
• Coastal Protection: The dense root systems of mangroves trap sediments flowing down rivers and off the land. This helps stabilizes the
coastline and prevents erosion from waves and storms. In areas where mangroves have been cleared, coastal damage from hurricanes and typhoons is much more severe costing authorities.
• Tourism: Given the diversity of life inhabiting mangroves systems, and their proximity in many cases to other tourist attractions such as coral reefs and sandy beaches. Many coastal communities have started to tap into the tourism potential of their mangroves forests.
• Timbers For Industries: Matang Mangroves has become major producer of charcoal since the beginning of century. The Matang Mangroves produces about 179 tonnes/ha of mangrove woods annually for the charcoal products (Azahar & Nik Mohd Shah 2003). The products are also exported to many countries, mainly Japan. Mangrove timbers, which are by products of the commercial thinning are used for construction and piling industry.
THREAT TO MANGROVES
Mangroves are naturally dynamic and elastic ecosystems, and may be disturbed by cyclones and floods; however nearly all mangroves have experienced significant losses in recent decades as a result of human activities. The two major threats to mangroves in the State of Perak include is land reclamation for coastal development and uncontrolled large scale industrial timber harvesting.
THE WAY FORWARD
There are many management and protection measures and tools available for use at national, and State level to help ensure a sustainable future for mangroves.
Recognizing the importance of mangroves for communities’ livelihoods and migratory shorebirds and recognizing that mangrove habitats are under increasing threats as outline above, policy makers should consider the following key options and actions are proposed.
1. Develop an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plan for the Coast of Perak – Uncontrolled coastal development for industrial and housing estate, has led to widespread environmental degradation. Hence, there is urgent need to develop an integrated coastal zone management plan that encompasses the entire coast of Perak which incorporate environmental, social and economic needs that involves relevant different stakeholder groups in the area in the development of such a plan is crucial.
2. The State need to resolve inaccurate and conflicting data on mangroves – As mentioned earlier, there is still insufficient and sometimes conflicting data depending on the real number of mangroves. There is urgent need to improve National and State level data as this will give an accurate picture of the State of mangrove. This will help the State to better manage development sustainably.
3. Nominate the Matang and Kuala Gula Mangroves for Ramsar Site and the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership – Listing the Matang and Kuala Gula Mangroves as Ramsar Site and Shorebird Site network will promote international cooperation and assistance in activities to conserve mangroves shorebirds habitat.
4. Provide support to local conservation initiatives – Local initiatives for mangroves conservation, environmental awareness, and ecotourism development along the coast of Perak e.g. Segari, Matang and Kuala Gula should be supported as much as possible. These initiatives should be linked up in a network (with the help of universities, related government agencies including Institut Darul Ridzuan and NGOs) which will strengthen the bargaining powers of local conservation.
5. Develop Tourism infrastructure and encourage local participation – Develop tourism based cottage industry to cater for the increasing numbers of international nature tourists for a visit to the Matang and Kuala Gula Mangroves, which will enhance attention and support for the conservation of the site, while potentially providing an alternative source of incomes for locals.