Until recently, mangroves were considered smelly, muddy, mosquito infested swamps and their removal was seen as a sign of progress. Today, many realise and appreciate the roles mangroves play in sustaining our ecosystem. Mangroves are all types of trees that have adapted to living in the sea. They are found growing in-between land and sea and are regularly inundated by tides.
Altogether there are about 65 recognised species of mangrove plants belonging to 20 families. Three types of mangroves are found in Fiji: white mangroves, red mangroves (tiri) and black mangroves (dogo). Over the centuries this hardy species has adapted to harsh conditions that no other plant can tolerate. Unique adaptive features of mangroves include the ability to survive in oxygen deficient soils with high salt concentrations. Special root systems permit them to stand their ground in the presence of huge and ferocious wave action.
Mangroves also have breathing roots called pneumatophores that grow out of the soil allowing them to absorb oxygen from the atmosphere.
Alongside the coasts of Fiji are roads, communities and commercially important industries. Most of these areas are lined with mangroves and are direct recipients of the vital services that these forests provide such as preventing coastal erosion, protecting infrastructure from being damaged from swells and strong winds and forming a buffer zone to absorb flood waters. Mangroves are estimated to reduce wave energy by 75%. Roots not only act as natural sieves preventing rubbish from being washed out to sea but also are found to absorb pollution, including heavy metals. Without mangroves whose roots effectively trap soil and sediments from being washed to sea, some of our coral reefs would be destined for certain demise.
Other vital services include providing commercially important reef fisheries with a habitat at the earliest stages of their life cycles. Numerous medicines are also derived from mangroves and useful for skin disorders, sores, headaches, rheumatism, snake bites, boils, ulcers, diarrhoea, and haemorrhages. In addition mangroves are important sources of firewood and building material.
NGOs and GOs in Fiji involved in mangrove awareness and replanting programmes are Live&Learn, PCDF, FIT, USP, WWF, WCS and OISCA International. A UN Environment Programme report highlighted that half the world’s mangroves have been lost to development since 1900. According to the report, Fiji and other PICs (Pacific Island Countries) could loose more than half their mangroves by the end of the century due to sea level rise.
Around the Mamanucas mangroves can be seen prevalent near the Nadi Bay area on mainland Viti Levu. A few clumps of mangroves can be seen on the southern part of Malolo and Malolo Lailai Island.
MES wishes to leave a message with all that we must continue to nurture our mangroves and reduce human threats in order to sustain our businesses and our livelihoods in the Mamanucas and Fiji!