Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Mangrove Forest

Photo credit: Wang Luan Keng

Description

The mangrove forest refers to the saline coastal sediment habitats found in calm waters protected from high-energy waves in the tropics and subtropics. The term also refers to the various kinds of highly adapted plants that dominate this habitat. These plants from unrelated families have developed strategies to survive in saline conditions and roots that provides support in soft anaerobic sediments of the mangrove habitat. There are over 50 major mangrove species worldwide and Singapore has recorded at least 21 of such species. The common genera include Rhizophora, Bruguiera, Avicennia, and Sonneratia.

Though the area of mangrove habitats in Singapore is far less than it was before, they still house a very rich and diverse assemblage of wild life. This includes some arthropod species believed to be endemic to Singapore. Even after the 1990s, species that were thought to be extinct are rediscovered while more new records and new species are being found in our mangroves.

On top of being an important habitat for many organisms, mangroves also serve as a nursery ground and shelter for various marine organisms, including commercially important fishes. They also provide other valuable "goods" such as timber and charcoal (from mangrove wood). Besides its economic significance, mangroves are also an important form of coastal protection, preventing soil erosion and reducing the impact of strong waves such as tsunamis.

Globally, two-thirds of the world's mangroves were lost during the 20th century alone due to many threats, including non-biodegradable human waste dumped into the sea, introduction of alien invasives, and coastal development. In Southeast Asia, the building of fish and prawn ponds for aquaculture has lead to large-scaled mangrove destruction as well as pollution.

Mangrove forests in Singapore have also suffered under coastal developmental pressures, shrinking drastically from an estimated 7,500 ha in early Singapore to 491 ha by the year 1993. Now on the main island of Singapore, mangroves are found in patches along the southwest coast and also along the northern coast. Larger stands of mangrove can still be found on some offshore islands including Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Pawai, Pulau Sudong, Pulau Senang, and Pulau Semakau. The gazetting of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore's first ASEAN Heritage Park, also ensured the protection of an area of mangroves in the northwestern tip of Singapore. The development of Pasir Ris Park is also another effort at combating mangrove loss.

Keywords

Mangrove forest, mangrove, mangroves

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