Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [20 - 26 May 2013]
from Green Business Times

"You Been to Ubin?" book launch on 1 Jun (Sat)
from wild shores of singapore

Long stretch of Changi shore with lots of life
from wonderful creation

Chek Jawa Boardwalk with the Crabs in May
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Random Gallery - Peacock Royal
from Butterflies of Singapore

Maculate Ladybirds at Admiralty Park!
from Coccinellid Chronicles

A list of birds in my garden – how useful is it?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Oriental Honey-buzzard Mobbed
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The other kings of the sky - swallows & swifts
from Life's Indulgences

From USR Park to Ulu Sembawang Park Connector
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

VIPs visit on Day 8 of the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

2nd Marine Biodiversity Survey
from Minister Tan Chuan-Jin's facebook page

Javan Myna Behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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New marine species discovered in Singapore

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 27 May 13;

SINGAPORE: More than 100 new records and discoveries of marine species have been found in Singapore.

Fourteen species have been identified as possibly new to science and 80 new records for Singapore have been found.

The survey is now at its halfway mark, with scientists and volunteers having collected some 30,000 marine specimens from surveying Singapore's mudflats, seabeds and reef habitats.

Ivan Kwan, one of the volunteers, said: "When I, like, for instance manage to find a funny looking crab, it's really the excitement of possibly being a part of the whole scientific process and really discovering what's in Singapore."

About 10 species that have not been seen in Singapore waters for a long time have also been rediscovered.

One of these, the "Feather Star", was last recorded in the 19th century.

Deputy CEO for NParks, Dr Leong Chee Chiew, said the survey will help conservation efforts.

"We are starting to appreciate and understand more clearly how rich the biodiversity in our waters are, and this is in spite of Singapore being so built up. It will help us to target some of our projects better," Dr Leong added.

Researchers are now in the midst of a three-week long expedition at Singapore's southern shore.

They will survey reef habitats and the seabed from the shallow subtidal to deeper waters in the Singapore Strait and the southern islands of Singapore.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin got a firsthand look.

He joined the team for a dive -- which is typically about five to 30 metres deep -- and despite the murky waters, 12 possible new records were found after just a week.

But there are some challenges involved.

Professor Peter Ng, director at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research Tropical Marine Science Institute explained: "When we're dredging in the deep, these are parts of the shipping lanes, so the safety measures have to go up many times.

"At the end of the day, our research vessels are dwarfed by all these giants out there, and we are one of the busiest ports in the world. So that adds several layers of challenges for us."

And the possibilities are endless as the survey continues.

- CNA/fa/al

Species possibly new to science found in seas here
Researchers on S'pore's first marine life census hope to discover more
Grace Chua Straits Times 28 May 13;

A THUMB-SIZE crab that has only six legs, another that shares a burrow with a worm and a sea anemone that looks as if it wears lipstick - these denizens of Singapore's seas could be completely new to science.

The discoveries are part of a five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey started in 2010, led by the National Parks Board (NParks).
And researchers trawling Singapore for its first marine life census are hoping to find even more as the five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey is just at its halfway mark.

This week, they plan to dredge Singapore's deepest waters, up to 200m deep.

So far, some 30,000 specimens have been collected in the survey by the National Parks Board (NParks) and National University of Singapore (NUS). Among them are at least 16 species possibly new to science.

"The nicer thing than finding new species is finding old friends," said Professor Peter Ng, director of NUS' Tropical Marine Science Institute.

For instance, a brightly patterned zebra crab not seen since the 1960s turned up last year at the islands south of Singapore.

Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin dropped in on St John's Island, where the survey's southern-islands expedition is currently under way till June 7.

Mr Tan, who is Acting Manpower Minister, also visited a reef off Pulau Tekukor, a former ammunition dump between Sentosa and St John's Island. He went scuba diving with survey staff to see sea fans and sponges.

The southern expedition is more challenging than the previous one to Singapore's northern seas and shores last October, said Prof Ng. The area surveyed this year, which spans from Jurong to Changi, is at least three times bigger than the northern region, and includes busy shipping lanes. Each day, teams venture out as early as 4am to reefs exposed during low tide, collecting octopuses, leatherjacket fish, sea stars, anemones and others.

Will Singapore ever have a gazetted marine reserve? That is a complex issue, Prof Ng said. "I would say we are on the road towards a reserve. It depends a lot on the sentiments of the people." While the survey, which began in December 2010, will identify biodiversity hot spots that merit protection, he added, "once you set a reserve... we cannot backtrack after that".

NParks' National Biodiversity Centre director Lena Chan noted there are other ways to protect biodiversity. For instance, some sea walls here are now designed to try to invite coral to grow.

The survey is running on more than $800,000 donated by companies like Shell, HSBC's Care-for-Nature Trust, Asia Pacific Breweries and Air Liquide, as well as public funding. But another $1.5 million will be needed.

Over 100 new marine species discovered in Singapore
Fabian Koh Straits Times 27 May 13;

Researchers have identified the "Lipstick" sea anemone in the mudflats of Pulau Ubin. Distinguishable by its distinctive red mouth, it is possibly a completely new species to be discovered in the world. Another species that may not have been recorded anywhere else in the world before, is the orange-clawed mangrove crab, found in coastal mangroves.

The two are part of 14 species identified as possibly new to science, in the five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) conducted by NParks and the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute. Launched in 2010, it has collected some 30,000 specimens through surveys in mudflats, seabeds and reef habitats. Through this, 10 species have also been rediscovered, such as a species of large coastal catfish last seen in Singapore waters over 100 years ago.

Last Tuesday, a second marine biodiversity expedition began. The three-week expedition aims to carry out a biodiversity survey of marine life in the "Singapore Deeps" - waters exceeding 80 to 100 metres in depth - a habitat that is mostly unexplored. Local scientists will be aided by 25 internationally renowned scientists from 10 countries.

Mr Leong Chee Chiew, deputy chief executive of NParks said: "The survey reminds us of the significant progress we have made in conserving our natural heritage. It is very important that we continue working with the community to nurture healthy ecosystems and promote the appreciation of our rich biodiversity to future generations of Singaporeans."

More marine species discovered in second phase of expedition
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 28 May 13;

SINGAPORE — A dozen species that could be new to science have been discovered in the second phase of a marine biodiversity expedition to take stock of the reef habitats and seabeds of the Singapore Strait and the southern islands.

The three-week-long expedition began a week ago, and is jointly conducted by the National Parks Board (NParks) and the National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute.

It will see about 100 local scientists and volunteers, including 25 international biodiversity experts, trawl shallow subtidal habitats of 5m to 100m, to deeper waters of up to 200m.

Said Professor Peter Ng, Director of the NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Tropical Marine Science Institute: “It’s quite exciting because we are surveying places we have never gone to before. For example, we are dredging into the ‘Singapore Deeps’ just offshore (St John’s Island), and these are waters going down about 100m to 200m deep.”

Data on marine fauna are collected through scuba diving, coral brushing and hand-collecting species during low-tide. To reach deeper waters, specialised equipment such as dredges, epibenthic sleds and otter trawls are also utilised.

The species discovered that could be new to science include species of the Peanut Worm Crab, the Six-legged Crab and a type of crinoid known as the Feather star.

Conducting a biodiversity survey along the southern islands is not without challenges, said Prof Ng, noting that the sampling area is large and intersected by busy shipping lanes.

“When you’re diving in these kinds of waters, there are all sorts of guidelines to follow. Even when dredging ... our research vessels are dwarfed by all these giant (ships) as we are one of the biggest ports in the world, so that adds several layers of challenges for us. Foremost is safety. It’s a huge juggling act,” he said.

Senior Minister of State (National Development) Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday visited St John’s Island to view some of the specimens discovered, and took the opportunity to dive in the waters off the island.

The first expedition — held in October last year — surveyed the seabed, mangroves and muddy, sandy and rocky shores along the Johor Strait.

The expeditions are part of Singapore’s first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey — a five-year initiative started in 2010 and led by NParks to take stock of Singapore’s marine ecosystems.

Currently at its halfway mark, about 30,000 specimens have been collected so far. Of these, 80 species were spotted for the first time locally.

Another 10 species such as the Digger Crab, Zebra Crab and Neptune’s Cup sponge — last seen more than 50 to 100 years ago — have been rediscovered, while 14 other species have been identified as possibly new to science.

NParks Deputy Chief Executive Officer Leong Chee Chiew the survey will aid in Singapore’s marine conservation efforts.

“We will be better able to identify what to do in various areas of our seas. Because we know more, our efforts can be much more targeted and more effective,” he said.

More than 100 new records and discoveries of marine species in Singapore. More possible discoveries from marine biodiversity expedition now underway at Southern Islands.
NParks media release 27 May 13;

Singapore, 27 May 2013 - Launched in 2010, the five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) has collected some 30,000 specimens through surveys conducted in mudflats, seabeds and reef habitats. Of these, 14 species have been identified as possibly new to science, more than 80 new records for Singapore have been found and about 10 species have been rediscovered.

Dr Leong Chee Chiew, Deputy CEO of NParks and Commissioner of Parks & Recreation said, "Singapore commemorates 50 Years of Greening this year, and the survey reminds us of the significant progress we have made in conserving our natural heritage. It is very important that we continue working with the community to nurture healthy ecosystems and promote the appreciation of our rich biodiversity to future generations of Singaporeans."

Rare discoveries from the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey

One of 14 species identified as possibly new to science is the "Lipstick" sea anemone. Found in the mudflats at Pulau Ubin, this predatory animal has a distinctive red mouth and may not have been recorded anywhere else in the world. Another species identified as possibly new to science is the orange-clawed mangrove crab found in coastal mangroves and a small goby, nicknamed "Zee" found in mudflats off Lim Chu Kang.

New records for Singapore include species of jellyfish, stinging nettles, bristleworms, marine slugs, crabs, sea cucumbers, and fishes. Some crabs were also rediscovered during the survey. The zebra crab, found in the Southern islands, was last seen in the early 1960s. A rarely seen tree-climbing Nipah crab was predicted to be in Singapore 20 years ago but was not confirmed till 2012. Another interesting rediscovery is a species of large coastal catfish last seen in Singapore waters over 100 years ago. Please refer to Annex A for more details on the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey.

Prof Peter Ng, Director of NUS' Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Tropical Marine Science Institute, said, "Many small and interesting species have not been sampled or studied before, and what we now know is only a small proportion of what is actually there. The second marine expedition will survey, study and document the marine biodiversity of the Singapore Strait to help Singapore build up a strong baseline for future environmental studies. This will include, for the first time, surveying for marine life in the "Singapore Deeps" - waters exceeding 80-100 metres in depth - a habitat hitherto unsampled."

Singapore's second marine biodiversity expedition (21 May to 7 June 2013)

NParks and National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute have begun its second marine biodiversity expedition as part of CMBS. The first marine expedition, held in October last year, surveyed the Johor Straits.

The three-week expedition will carry out a biodiversity survey of reef habitats and the seabed from the shallow subtidal (5-100 m) to deeper waters (up to 200 m depth) in the Singapore Strait and the southern islands of Singapore.

Data on marine fauna are collected through scuba diving, coral brushing, hand-collecting during low tide, and using specialised equipment such as dredges, epibenthic sleds and otter trawls. Since the start of the expedition on 21 May, 12 diving, dredging and intertidal surveys have been carried out, including night coral reef surveys conducted at night. Twenty-two more surveys are planned until the end of the expedition on 7 June. Refer to Annex B for more details on the expedition programme.

Aiding our local scientists to collect and identify specimens is a group of 25 internationally renowned scientists from 10 countries. These scientists are experts in their own field of study, with interests ranging from crustaceans, molluscs, sea anemones, seagrasses and sponges.

Many of the scientists have seen the possibilities of new findings during their previous visits, and they are here again in anticipation of making further discoveries. Refer to Annex C for the list of local and international scientists. Apart from the scientists, the expedition also involves conservation officers, nature groups and volunteers from 18 to 60 years old. In particular, the expedition will involve 50 volunteers.

Annex A
About the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey
Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world. Yet we have very rich marine biodiversity. Singapore’s waters harbour some 250 species of hard corals, or a third of the world’s hard coral species. Half the number of seagrass species in the Indo- Pacific region can be found within Singapore’s waters. More than 100 species of inter-tidal sponges have been recorded and many more are likely to be observed in the survey.

We have achieved this through delicately balancing development and biodiversity conservation, which is something that we will need to continue doing given our limited space and resources.

In order for Singapore to remain a sustainable coastal city as we continue to urbanise, we need to better integrate the management of our coastal and marine environments. The start to this is to know comprehensively and understand our marine biodiversity, what we have, where they are and how best to conserve them.

Singapore’s first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey is a five-year national initiative to take stock of our marine ecosystems, species diversity and distribution of marine life. The survey, led by the National Parks Board, will bring together the larger community of experts from tertiary institutions, non-governmental organisations and individual enthusiasts.

The CMBS has received widespread support from both local and international communities. More than $800,000 has been raised so far through corporate sponsorships to the NUS and NParks’ Garden City Fund, a registered charity and IPC. Organisations which have contributed to the CMBS so far include Asia Pacific Breweries, Care-for-Nature Trust Fund, Shell Companies in Singapore and The Air Liquide Group. Refer to Annex D.

Some 350 local volunteers have also contributed in various aspects of the CMBS, including photography, outdoor field sampling and collection, specimen processing, database support as well as organising outreach programmes.

In the first phase (from Dec 2010), some 12,000 specimens were collected which included 60 surveys of intertidal mudflat habitats. These habitats included Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Lim Chu Kang and Mandai. Some of the organisms found included ribbon worms, flatworms, peanut worms, bristleworms, horseshoe crabs, painted porcelain crab (porcellanella picta) and even a species of moray eel. One new record for Singapore is the Leonnates cf. crinitus, a worm last discovered in Australia 20 years ago. Mudflat surveys were recently completed.

In the second phase (from May 2012), seabed surveys documented some 4,000 specimens belonging to more than 60 species using naturalist's dredges and trawls. A highlight of the survey was the rediscovery of the primitive fish Amphioxus, which has not been seen in Singapore since the 1950s.

The three-week first marine biodiversity expedition (15 – 29 October 2012) collected about 12,000 specimens from both subtidal and intertidal habitats including the seabed, mangroves, as well as from muddy, sandy and rocky shores. The expedition garnered five new possible species, 40 new records and two rediscoveries for Singapore to-date. The expedition involved 150 local scientists, conservation officers and volunteers from 15 to 60 years of age. A team of 20 renowned scientists from ten countries participated in the expedition together with local counterparts.

CMBS findings are updated on the website:

Links to other Annexes in the NParks media release
Annex B
Annex C
Annex D
Annex E

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125 fined for illegal fishing activities in 2012

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 26 May 13;

SINGAPORE: 125 people were fined last year for illegal fishing activities, such as fishing outside designated areas or using live bait.

National water agency PUB said recreational fishing has become more popular over the years.

In response, it has set aside 10 reservoirs with designated fishing areas, where the public can fish safely without inconveniencing others.

But many have also chosen to fish at non-designated places.

91 people were fined last year for fishing at non-designated areas.

34 others were fined for using live bait.

PUB said fishing in non-designated areas or using live bait is an offence, because of safety and environmental health concerns.

PUB officers carry out daily surveillance of its reservoirs.

- CNA/xq

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Tall trees reduce noise and air pollution

Straits Times Forum 28 May 13;

BEFORE replacing tall trees with shorter ones, the National Parks Board (NParks) should note that tall trees act as a barrier against noise pollution, especially for HDB flats facing expressways ("Some tall trees being replaced"; May 19).

Also, tall trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the day. This is helpful as residents who live near expressways are subjected to air pollution.

Replacing tall trees with shorter ones will only make the existing noise and air pollution worse.

If it is indeed necessary to replace the tall trees, NParks should plant more clusters of shorter plants near the expressways, which help to reduce the noise and air pollution.

Trees such as the leyland cypress, which can grow up to 15m tall, and crape myrtle are good sound barriers and thrive well in hot and humid climates.

Francis Cheng

Clustered planting carried out at appropriate locations: NParks
Straits Times Forum 31 May 13;

WE THANK Mr Francis Cheng for his feedback ("Tall trees reduce noise and air pollution"; Forum Online, Tuesday).

We are heartened that members of the public recognise the many benefits of having trees in our built environment. As Singapore continues to urbanise, trees and greenery will play an increasing role in mitigating the effects of dense urban living.
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We carry out periodic clustered planting at appropriate locations, such as along the Central Expressway and Pan-Island Expressway. This involves planting a mix of tall and small trees densely together, which helps provide a range of benefits for city dwellers, such as a sense of privacy and visual relief against heavy traffic.

Oh Cheow Sheng
Director (Streetscape)
National Parks Board

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The Many Faces of Illegal Logging in Kalimantan

Jakarta Globe 27 May 13;

A man running a business on a main road in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, was recently slapped with a fine after destroying a tree that he considered a nuisance to his business.

“He watered the tree with something that eventually killed it. We at the Sanitation, Park and Cemetery Office [DKPP] subsequently sued him. He was punished and had to pay us back the losses,” Sudirman Djajaleksana, head of public relations for the Balikpapan government, said on Sunday.

The city administration governs unlicensed logging under a 2010 regulation that imposes a punishment of up to three months in prison and a fine of up to Rp 15 million ($1,530) for cutting down or killing trees planted by the DKPP.

Sudirman said the man was not jailed, but “he paid Rp 5 million for the loss and planted a new tree. … We hope that will have enough of a deterrent effect.”

“The tree [he killed] is located pretty far from his business. The DKPP had placed it there for a reason,” Sudirman said.

The case is one of many that demonstrate how the existence of natural resources in Kalimantan is being undermined by human activities.

Illegal logging has long been an issue in Kalimantan, an island that hosts a vast area of forests and has a variety of wildlife, with some nearing extinction.

Last week, about two hectares of mangroves were found to have been cleared near the Graha Indah Kariangau housing compound in North Balikpapan, allegedly for the construction of housing.

Agus Bei, chair of the Graha Kariangau Mangrove Center, said he found six people cutting down trees in the area on Wednesday. An estimated 20,000 tree trunks were found cut within the area, despite being notionally protected by the city administration. “We caught six people using chainsaws. They admitted to working for a housing company. I immediately told them to stop,” Agus said.

A major illegal logging operation was discovered while Agus and other residents patrolled the area by boat.

Agus said one night he noticed some differences in a local area. “We noticed the eastern part of the river looked brighter than usual and the area was quieter than normal, when there are birds or other animals. We approached the location and found a large area of trees cut down,” he said.

The mangrove center is estimated to cover 12 hectares and is connected to the Somber River and Balikpapan Bay.

As well as being used for conservation, the plantation is also a tourism destination for local and foreign visitors.

In a separate case, a report by forest rangers last month revealed that two-fifths of the combined area of two nature reserves in East Kalimantan’s Paser district has been degraded as a result of the increased human presence.

Darmanto, the chief ranger with the Balikpapan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said the 53,800 hectare Teluk Adang and the 46,900 hectare Teluk Apar reserves, both home to ecologically important mangrove swamps, were slowly being taken over by people building villages, and fish and shrimp farms.

“They’ve even built schools and clinics inside the reserves, which is prohibited, and this has left up to 40 percent of the area badly degraded,” Darmanto said.

Kalimantan is home to massive swathes of forest, which are considered by many experts to be crucial to the battle against climate change. But efforts to protect the greenery has been hampered by enforcement difficulties.

While Indonesia has signed an agreement with Norway to protect significant stretches of forest in exchange for cash payments, halting the activities of illegal loggers, many of whom are richly rewarded given global demand for wood and paper products, has proven difficult.

Policies of decentralization have vested power with provincial and local administrations.

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Indonesia: Central Kalimantan Forests Prepare for Ecotourism

Ari Rikin Jakarta Globe 28 May 13;

The Central Kalimantan government is preparing the Tanjung Puting and Sabangau National Park as an ecotourism destination with support from sustainability group Rimbawan Bangun Lestari.

Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang said the province is home to a vast natural resources, specifically forests.

He added that 30 years ago, Central Kalimantan was among the most resourceful provinces in terms of its forestry industry. But government policies in the years that followed led to logging being conducted across its forests.

“Logging was conducted under government policies. In the process, reforestation efforts also occurred but failed to match the logging. Today, natural resources remain abundant. This, to us, is valuable,” he said during the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Central Kalimantan government and Rimbawan Bangun Lestari on Monday.

Agustin said that 82 percent of Central Kalimantan consists of forests, with a total area of 15.4 million hectares. He said he hoped that plans to develop the forests as a tourism destination would include conservation efforts.

“Activities that support the development phase of ecotourism were conducted prior to the signing of this agreement, including the protection of endemic flora and fauna, such as the orangutan,” he said.

Central Kalimantan’s forest area comprise 1.6 million hectares of nature sanctuary areas and nature preservation areas, and 11.1 million hectares of protected forest, limited production forest and convertible production forest.

David Makes, chairman of the Sustainable Management Group, a private-sector conservation organization, said forest resources, especially those outside the nature sanctuary and preservation areas, were prone to disruptions, both natural and man-made.

“Without careful and clever development and utilization, the result may end up damaging and thus threatening the existing natural sanctuary and preservation areas,” he said.

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Mangrove conservation pays off for Kenya's coastal communities

James Karuga Thomson Reuters Foundation 28 May 13;

DABASO, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Kahindi Charo gathered 30 of his friends to replant mangroves in the 32 square km (12 square mile) Mida Creek area, people in his village of Dabaso in Kilifi County dismissed them as crazy idlers.

Charo recalls that back then, in 2000, the creek had suffered badly from unregulated harvesting that had left the area bare, with rotting stumps and patches of old mangrove trees.

Today, Mida Creek, about 60 km (38 miles) north of Mombasa, flourishes with dense mangrove plantations that provide a habitat for birds, fish and crabs. There is also a boardwalk leading to a 12-seat eco-restaurant perched beside the Indian Ocean.

“If there were no mangroves, we would be dead, since most of us are fishermen and fish lay their eggs and get their food from mangrove marshes,” Charo said, sitting at the restaurant.

The task of the Dabaso Creek Conservation Group (DCCG) was not an easy one. At first, the group planted mangrove seeds that had washed ashore, not realising that some were from different ecological zones and unsuited to the environment at Mida Creek. Fewer than half the trees first planted by the budding conservationists survived, Charo said.

Some discouraged members left, but others pushed on with the work. Nowadays the 26-member organisation is one of over 50 mangrove conservation community groups with a total of around 1,500 members, spread along Kenya’s 600 km (375 mile) coastline.


Over the last 10 years, conservationists in the region have planted an estimated 10 million mangroves, and the forests have in turn provided for the community. During the peak tourism season, which runs from August to March, the Dabaso Creek Conservation Group earns over 300,000 Kenyan shillings (around $3,600) from the eco-restaurant, birding excursions and selling crabs and fish to hotels in Dabaso.

As the project’s supervisor, Charo himself receives a salary and no longer relies on selling groundnuts to make a living.

Like Charo, 29-year-old Mwatime Hamadi, a nursery school teacher from Gazi, 50 km (31 miles) south of Mombasa, has seen her earnings rise through mangrove conservation.

Hamadi belongs to Gazi Women Mangrove, a group whose 36 members farm fish and crabs and keep bees for honey in the mangroves. There is also a boardwalk for visitors interested in touring the marshes, with a fee ranging from 50 shillings ($0.60) to 300 shillings (around $4) for international tourists. The women also run a curio shop targeted at tourists.

Some of the earnings from these projects fund classes for illiterate adults in the community.

Michael Njoroge, a researcher with Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) Gazi station, explained that the institute also trains communities on planting other trees as well as mangroves – such as the fast-growing casuarina tree, which matures in just three to five years. Researchers hope it could take pressure off mangrove forests.

“We now use casuarina for building and wood fuel,” said Hamadi. “If you cut mangrove it takes 25 years (for a new tree) to mature, and other trees can’t shield us from high tide like (mangrove).”

Last year, the research institute provided almost 3,000 casuarina seedlings for planting around Gazi, a village with some 1,000 residents. Local institutions like Gazi Primary School have provided land for communal woodlots where the trees are planted. Once mature, the trees will be sold to locals, for construction and other uses.

The casuarina woodlots should help reduce the pressure on mangroves from unlicensed harvesting, although some mangroves are still felled by people who are too poor to afford other sources of fuel, according to Njoroge.


A 2010 study by Coastal and Marine Resources Development Africa (COMRED Africa) reported that 70 percent of coastal Kenya’s wood requirement was met using mangroves, including 80 percent of the poles used for building houses. But since a presidential ban on mangrove harvesting was enacted in 2000, there has been an increase in mangrove planting and losses have slowed.

A study released last year by Landsat, Ocean Coast Management and KMFRI showed that from 2000 to 2010 mangrove depletion in Kenya totalled 1,340 hectares (3,310 acres), compared to 4,950 hectares (12,230 acres) lost in the eight years prior to that.

Currently there are 54,000 hectares (133,000 acres) of mangrove spread across 18 forest formations along the Kenya’s coastline, according to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). In Gazi and Dabaso any mangroves cut must be licensed by the service, which consults with community forest associations that act as grassroots protectors of the mangroves. Communities also provide guards for the mangroves, paid for by the forest service.

Mangrove conservation is important in the fight against climate change, and not just because mangroves can slow storm surges, prevent erosion and lower disaster risk for coastal communities.

An Earth Watch study reported that 1 hectare of mangroves can sequester 1.36 tonnes of carbon in a year, equivalent to the annual emissions of six cars. Mangroves and other coastal vegetation like seagrasses and salt marsh grass, which are collectively known as blue carbon, can sequester carbon up to 100 times more effectively than terrestrial forests, one study shows.

Locals hope the carbon-absorbing properties of the trees will help produce more income for communities around Gazi Bay once a “payment for ecosystem services” scheme dubbed Mikoko Pamoja is assessed and certified by Plan Vivo, a charity working on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

According to project coordinator Noel Mbaru, the project covers about one-fifth of the 615-hectare Gazi Bay Mangrove Forest. The scheme is expected to sell carbon credits equivalent to 3,000 tonnes each year, earning the community about $15,000.

Mikoko Pamoja also oversees the casuarinas woodlots, and aims to replenish degraded land with 4,000 mangroves annually for the next 20 years.

“If mangroves are destroyed we won’t get any more money or educate our children, (so) we need to conserve them carefully,” said Hamadi, of Gazi Women Mangrove.

James Karuga is a Nairobi-based journalist interested in agriculture and climate change issues.

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