project news

Mysterious Mangroves

News item submitted by Amelia Davies
News item dated 13 Oct 2010


Stumbling over a labyrinth of gnarly stilt like roots, knee deep in muddy sea water and glistening with salt crystals, recent volunteers in Fiji have found themselves in rather peculiar surroundings of late; mangrove forests, where the rainforest meets the sea.

Surveying the mangrove forests around the western coast of Gau Island may not sound the most glamorous of activities (it certainly is messy!), but it is vital to the sustainable management of one the island’s most valuable resources.  Mangroves are important habitats all over the world. Not only do they protect the coast from tsunamis, hurricanes and sea level changes, but they also protect the surrounding coral reefs by trapping harmful sediments that may damage fragile coral reef ecosystems.

Mangrove forests provide at least US $1.6 billion each year in ecosystem services and support coastal livelihoods worldwide. Locally, mangroves provide Fijians with salt collected from drying pools of seawater trapped in the swamps, with dyes extracted from the fruits and seeds of the trees, and with wood for building material and firewood. They are also a supply of food. Mangroves indeed play host to a variety of organisms from shellfish to mudskippers as well as acting as nurseries for fresh water and reef fishes.

Despite such values, mangroves are currently being destroyed worldwide as coastal development activities replace large areas of the forests with tourist resorts and housing. A recent global assessment has found that 11 of the 70 known species of mangrove are at a dangerously high risk of extinction.

The Frontier Fiji marine team are currently working to map out the extent and health of these saline tolerant shrubs and trees on the western side of Gau Island. With an aim to monitor the rate of clearance and to implement protection schemes, it is hoped that Fiji’s mangroves will remain in abundance for many years to come.


Exploring the Mangroves


Read more about our Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving project.