Screen Shot 06-10-15 at 09.18 PMDr. Ranil Senanayake

Senior Scientist and Project Director
Worldview International Foundation,
Chairman Rainforest Rescue International
and Founder, International Analog Forestry

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All forests have unique and critical characteristics that must be recognized in their function of providing Ecosystem Services. In an age of Global Warming and consequential Climate Change phenomena, the Mangrove ecosystems of the planet hold out extraordinary promise as well as a tenuous existence on anthropogenic landscapes.

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Mangroves are littoral and tidal influenced plant formations of tropical and subtropical sheltered intertidal areas. Mangrove comprises trees, shrubs, climbers, fern and palms. Among mangroves plants of the genera Rhizophora and Bugeria have been especially vulnerable due to the demand of their wood that is converted into charcoal. This trade has been operating for a long time and has been a primary reason for the loss of these shelters providing species and the consequent damage wrought by cyclones such as Nargis. Mangrove ecosystems play a crucial role in protecting coastal regions, preventing coastline from storm damage, floods and soil erosion.

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Mangroves are ecosystems, situated at the interface of fresh and salt water to act as a filter for much of the land based riverine outputs. For instance, sediments, nutrients and toxins carried  by runoff are first filtered by coastal forests, then by mangrove wetlands, and finally by sea-grass beds before reaching coral reefs. The existence and health of coral reefs are dependent on the buffering capacity of these shoreward ecosystems, which support the environmental conditions needed by coral reefs. Mangroves supply nutrients to adjacent coral reefs and sea-grass communities, sustaining primary production and general health in these habitats. Mangrove root systems slow water flow, facilitating the deposition of sediment. Toxins and nutrients are bound to sediment particles or within the molecular lattice of clay particles and are removed during sediment deposition.

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One aspect of the response to Global Warming has been the interest in sequestering atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and providing long term sinks for that sequestered Carbon. The capacity of mangroves, sea grasses, and salt marshes to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is becoming increasingly recognized at an international level. Of all the biological carbon captured in the world it has been estimated that, over half (55%) is captured by mangroves, sea grasses and salt marshes.

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These coastal vegetations sequester carbon as far more effectively (up to 100 times faster) and because their soils are organic, anoxic, clay or silt, it can store carbon more permanently than terrestrial forests. Further, these deep, organic rich soils store up to five times more carbon than most other tropical forests around the world. In fact, mangroves have more carbon in their soil alone than most tropical forests have in all their biomass and soil combined. The entangled root systems of mangroves, which anchor the plants into underwater sediment, slow down incoming tidal waters, allowing organic and inorganic material to settle into the sediment surface.

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Thus mangrove ecosystems present a great potential in sequestering atmospheric carbon over a long time period.

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Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park (Figure 1)

Two serious concerns for coastal communities facing climate change are the protection of their living spaces and their livelihoods both under threat by the current changes. As the level of the sea rises so will the range of salt water intrusion from the sea, this will affect agriculture through the salinated zone as traditional crops such as rice, beans or sugar will become impossible to grow in such soil. The other is that as sea level rise begins, if there is no backward movement of mangroves possible (fig 1) the mangrove community will go extinct.

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Mangrove forests offer a unique and highly efficient approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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Restoring mangrove ecosystems in degraded areas, establishment of planting designs for areas to be salinated and computing the Carbon Gain are some of the urgent actions needed. However, these plantings are generally even aged monocultures, without the biodiversity characteristics of the original mangrove ecosystem.

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Thus a new approach to mangrove restoration was being called for.  Early work using Analog Forestry in Mangrove ecosystems in Sri Lanka and Honduras suggested that plantings should follow the salt gradient and flood profiles. The feature of mangrove ecosystems to build soil was also designed where practical.

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In response to the threat of increasing salinity, it is crucial to identify plants with an income potential that come from the mangroves.

Our studies have indicated that, ‘value adding to existing resources and increasing biodiversity, could be achieved through retrofitting the existing production system to be more analogous to the natural Mangrove ecosystems of the region.

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For the creation of an example of this approach, a mangrove plant that had traditional use but without market demand was chosen as a ‘Mangrove Product’.   Applied research has developed a process for high quality product from the sap of the Mangrove Palm (Nypa fruticans).

The project developed a group of rice farmers whose only source of outside income was labour, to tap the Nypa palm for a sweet sap which was purchased by the project.

The farm income tripled as a consequence and the farmers began to look at the hitherto unappreciated Nypa groves as a source of regular income.

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There are many unaddressed areas in Mangrove research that need to be developed. For instance, the current work on Ecosystem Services suggests that plant leaves should act as Ecosystem Services Proxies {ESP’s} because of the cooling factor as well as the oxygen production factor. Very little is known about the potential of mangroves to contribute to Ecosystem services such as, Water cleansing, evaporative cooling, Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN) production, Gas exchange capacity etc.

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Thus the establishment of research and education related to  Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park being designed with the University of Pathein provide an institutional base for such critical research.

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With this project, the urgency of mangrove restoration can be highlighted.  It has been pointed out by many scientists that restoration of mangrove is more than just planting trees.  It had to develop an ecosystem that was productive and provided an alternative livelihood to the poor.This could lead to other sources of income rather than charcoal and fire wood production.It will also motivate and educate the population in coastal areas to appreciate the existence of mangrove in their neighbourhood and to appreciate the value of mangrove in their neighbourhood.The project therefore embarked on pilot projects to explore alternative livelihood opportunities.

    • Production of nypa golden nectar, with the aim of utilizing nypa sap as a new economic opportunity for people in the mangrove areas.
    • Propagation of orchids in mangrove forests. A tissue culture lab is in operation for propagation of wild orchids, with the aim of rescuing endangered wild orchids from extinction and creating alternative livelihoods in mangrove areas.
    • Production of bees honey in mangrove areas. This will produce premium quality honey with valuable income to the participants.
    • Distribution of simple solar light on community credit to disadvantaged families in coastal areas.


More info on the web – and information on the ongoing projects on YouTube:

Endorsement by the Champion for Myanmar’s Sustainable Development
Screen Shot 06-11-15 at 01.17 AM“I am thankful to Worldview International Foundation
for its long-term support to democracy and sustainable
development in Burma”.

Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi, MP
Noble Peace Laureate, Secretary General and Chairman of National League for Democracy.

ADOPT A MANGROVE TREE (Link)Productphoto_1020x1200_Wordview_International_Foundation

  • Mangroves mitigating 3-5 times more CO2 than rainforest trees
  • Protecting lives and properties from extreme weather
  • Increasing sea food production with up to 50%
  • Filtering and cleaning water
  • Providing cooling effect and other vital eco services for life on Earth
  • Helping disadvantaged in vulnerable coastal communities with sustainable development to overcome poverty

Discover how much CO2 you as an individual produce each year 
Mangrove tree(s) in Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar mitigating1 ton per tree documented in the soil and in the biomass.

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