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Working together to help save Malaysian mangroves

3 September 2020

New research and information has been published highlighting the importance of the dynamic and productive mangrove habitats but also how working together across sectors and industries can boost sustainable mangrove management for the benefit of all.

Mangrove trees in water

The NetComFish project, involving Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and the University of Malaya, and funded by the UK-Southeast Asia Small Scale Research Partnership 2016 (NEWTON-UNGKU OMAR) with support from the Natural Environment Research Council’s ACCORD project, uses ‘nexus thinking’ to empower collaborative mangrove management, working closely with a wide range of Klang Islands stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by mangroves and the people who rely on them.

Published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, the NetComFish research paper ‘Using nexus thinking to identify opportunities for mangrove management in the Klang Islands, Malaysia’ shows that mangrove management can be framed as a ‘nexus’ challenge, through which interdependent natural resource problems, and the trade-offs and feedbacks between them, can be viewed in a holistic manner.

Dr Caroline Hattam, UK Principal Investigator for NetComFish, formerly Senior Environmental Economist at PML and currently Senior Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, commented: “The nexus approach emphasises the need for integrated approaches to deal with complex sustainability challenges at the intersection between natural and human systems. Such integrated approaches can improve environmental, climate, human and political security.”

To support this research paper, the team produced a Policy Brief to share with the various agencies involved with Klang Islands mangrove management that identifies opportunities to enable more sustainable mangrove management and prevent further mangrove loss.

Large group photo of school children

Above: Sharing knowledge about mangroves with a local school

A short video has also been produced, explaining how local residents are already working together to help stop mangrove degradation and decline, and how this mangrove community can be expanded to enhance beneficial impact.

The NetCom Fish information package was released in Malaysia during the last week of July, to coincide with World Mangrove Day celebrations. It is hoped that this information will highlight the need to work more collaboratively across sectors and be used to strengthen the protection for remaining mangrove stands, no matter their size.

Group of researchers working together

Above: Researchers during the NetComFish workshop

The use of nexus thinking to explore the management of mangroves in the Klang Islands, has enabled the NetComFish research team to reveal the interconnections between the users and the uses of mangrove resources. It has identified multiple stakeholders with different levels of influence and recognition of their impacts upon mangrove resources, and the need to bring them together to collaboratively manage and protect the mangroves.

Dr Amy Then, NetComFish Co-Investigator and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Malaya, said: “One of the striking points from this research is the lack or even absence of engagement with stakeholders that have little interest but high influence and impact on mangroves. Future mangrove conservation and management strategies should take this point into account”.

Visions for the Islands’ future include mangroves despite recent extensive losses on two of the Klang Islands, but the future for fisheries looks limited. Although wider consultation is needed to capture absent voices, a future mangrove nexus in the Klang Islands should focus more directly on protecting existing mangroves and managing them as a multifunctional resource that can support local communities and stakeholders.

Fishing boat and mangrove trees

Above: Mangroves support fisheries and aquaculture resources 

Effort must be given to integrating all relevant stakeholders including local communities, community organisations, municipal and state government as well as the private sector. Engaging the private sector is a particular challenge that will require awareness raising, but should also include a collective approach to Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR), as well as the development of alternative economic mangrove opportunities. To achieve these visions, policy integration is needed to ensure that mangroves do not continue to fall through policy loopholes and that there is no further loss of this incredible ecosystem.

Despite recognition of their importance, Malaysia continues to lose mangroves at one of the highest rates globally (700-800 ha per year between 1990-2017). The state of Selangor lost 22% (6,424 ha) of its mangrove cover between 1990 and 2010, with further significant loss before then. In 1988, the Klang Islands and Carey island were home to more than 19,000 ha of mangrove forest, but 22% (4,139 ha) of this has also been lost since; an area approximately two and a half times the size of Greater London.

The loss of mangroves in Selangor and the Klang Islands is mainly due to land conversion for urban development (ports, housing, light industry) and oil palm plantations. Erosion, aquaculture, pollution, sand dredging and increasing wake from shipping traffic along with a rising sea level have also contributed to a squeeze on mangrove fringes around the islands.

A follow-on project, NexAMS (Nexus Action for Mangroves in Selangor), has already been funded to further the impact of this research through engagement with a wider set of stakeholders including communities, the private sector and local and state government actors.

Related information

Read the publication: ‘Using nexus thinking to identify opportunities for mangrove management in the Klang Islands, Malaysia’.

Download the Policy Brief: 'Creating Opportunities for Businesses, Communities and Mangroves in the Klang Islands'

View the video: 'Saving Malaysia's Mangroves' on YouTube

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