Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
December 19, 2005
Research over the past year has shown that areas buffered by coastal forests, like mangroves, were less damaged by the 2004 tsunami than areas without tree vegetation. Accordingly, governments in tsunami-affected countries have proposed mangrove restoration projects along their coasts as a protective "bioshield" against storm damage.
Author Erika Check reports that the Indonesian government has turned some tsunami-damaged coastline over to shrimp farmers, despite its official support for forest buffer zones.
Mangrove clearing for commercial shrimp and prawn hatcheries is particularly prevalent in Southeast Asia. Ironically this form of aquaculture has come at the expense of the natural fish and shrimp hatchery. The destruction of mangrove forest has dire implications for fisheries since these forests provide an important spawning ground and serve as a nursery for many commercially important species.
Last month the FAO reported that 20% of the world's mangrove forests have disappeared since 1980. Mangrove forests are slow to recover from clearing and degradation.