Ecological Mangrove Restoration in Thailand
Wetlands International promotes Ecological Mangrove Restoration; an innovative technique of restoring degraded mangrove forests by only restoring the hydrology to its natural state. Compared to seedling planting projects, this approach is significantly cheaper and creates a mangrove forest with more different species of mangroves and other flora and fauna. Krabi Estuary, a Ramsar Site of International Importance, located in Southwest of Thailand, was selected to demonstrate the approach.
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Presently, in Southeast Asia there are huge areas of abandoned shrimp ponds that could be returned to mangroves by restoring the natural hydrology. In this way, nature itself is allowed to regenerate a healthy, biologically diverse mangrove forest.
Failure of mangrove restoration projects
Most mangrove restoration projects fail due to the lack of consideration for the hydrology of the restoration site and only involve planting of one single species, such as Rhizophora sp. nursery raised seedlings or propagules. If mangrove planting projects succeed they usually result in mono-culture plantations with low biodiversity.
Involve local communities
The local community must be involved in the entire process; this is required to ensure sustainability. Also if human and animal grazing pressures on mangroves are too high then these too must be reduced. This is done through fencing off restoration sites and assisting people with supplementary economic activties. Read more on 6 steps of Ecological Mangrove Restoration below.
Selected site: Krabi, Thailand
The site selected to demonstrate this technique was the Krabi Estuary, which is a Ramsar Site of International Importance, located in Southwest of Thailand.
It takes 6 steps
Ecological Mangrove Restoration uses six (6) steps:
Work together with local communities, NGOs and government to:
Understand both the individual species and community ecology of the naturally occurring mangrove species at the site, paying particular attention to patterns of reproduction, distribution, and successful seedling establishment
Understand the normal hydrology that controls the distribution and successful establishment and growth of targeted mangrove species
Assess the modifications of the mangrove environment that occurred and that currently prevent natural secondary succession
Select appropriate restoration areas through application of Steps 1-3, above, that are both likely to succeed in rehabilitating a forest ecosystem and are cost effective. Consider the available labor to carry out the projects, including adequate monitoring of their progress toward meeting quantitative goals established prior to restoration. This step includes resolving land ownership/use issues necessary for ensuring long-term access to and conservation of the site
Design the restoration program at appropriate sites selected in Step 4, above, to restore the appropriate hydrology and utilize natural volunteer mangrove recruitment for natural plant establishment
- Utilise actual planting of propagules or seedlings only after determining through Steps 1-5, above, that natural recruitment will not provide the quantity of successfully established seedlings, rate of stabilisation, or rate of growth as required for project success.
A healthy, bio-diverse result
The result is a healthy, bio-diverse, restored mangrove with an empowered community that can act as a catalyst for other mangrove communities. For example, this Krabi restoration work is used as a field training site for future EMR training workshops, leading to a higher rate of success amongst those other communities wishing to restore mangroves.
Learn more on Ecological Mangrove Restoration:
Watch the instruction video from our Mangrove Action Project partner