Following the beach clean-up activity at Pulau Payar Marine Park, 45 students and 5 teachers from Dalat International School Penang travelled to the Kilim Geoforest Park in Langkawi on 21 April 2011 to lend their hands to a mangrove planting activity, a green project organized by Langkawi Coral.
Mangrove forests are productive ecosystems that play an important part in the entire ecology cycle. These mangroves serve as home and nurseries for many fish, crab, shrimp and mollusk species while sustaining a large variety of wildlife such as mammals, birds and insects.
Mangrove swamps, also known as wetlands, protect coral reefs from being smothered in sediment while preventing salt from creeping inland. They act as an important form of buffer zone between the sea and shoreline. The dense root systems of mangrove forests help protect the shoreline by absorbing the shocks of waves and storms.
Other than that, mangrove forests provide important source for timber and plant products. The forests have been commercially harvested for wood chip, pulp and charcoal production as well as medicinal plants. These mangroves are also interesting places to explore for tourists thus helping to boost local tourism.
Mangrove Forests and Tsunami
In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, field studies in several affected countries showed that mangrove forests played a crucial part in saving human lives and property. Mangrove trees shield the land from wind and trap sediment in their roots, maintaining a shallow slope on the seabed that absorbs the energy of tidal surges. These forests reduce the impact of tsunamis by reducing both the height and the velocity of the incoming waves. Mangrove also trapped debris and prevented people from being washed out to sea, which was a major cause of death.
These studies also showed that all of the countries that were hit hardest by the 2004 tsunami – Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand – have experiences recent losses of mangrove forests. The total area of mangrove forests in these four countries was reduced by 28% between 1980 and 2000, due to the development of aquaculture and tourism infrastructure. Therefore, conserving and restoring these mangrove ecosystems is essential if coastal communities are to recover and achieve sustainability.
In Malaysia, mangrove forests play a very important part in environmental protection. The idea of planting mangrove trees gave the students a whole new experience in environment conservation. This activity not only instilled environmental awareness among the students, it also paved the way for more future mangrove planting activities.