The Importance of Mangrove Forests for Raja Ampat
Watching the sunset from the peaceful mangrove lounge at Meridian Dive Resort you are surrounded by towering mangrove trees full of birds, the shallow water at their base is home to many crabs and small fish and even the occasional eel. Newly planted mangroves are starting to sprout along the walkway to the lounge that is built between these impressive trees.
Trees that are the most important in the entire ecosystem of the Raja Ampat Islands. It is no wonder that it is illegal to remove these trees and with great admiration for the design of the lounge you come to appreciate the design that rather than relying on removing the trees has found a way to incorporate their unique branch growth to allow guests to be surrounded by them.
Why exactly are Mangroves so important to the area of Raja Ampat?
Mangrove forests are found in abundance in the region. Most of the 1500 small island of the region have coastlines that are lined with mangroves growing in the shallow waters and stretching far behind.
Raja Ampat is well known as being the most biodiverse marine ecosystem in the world. The mangrove forests that are found near these diverse reef systems are home to large numbers of marine species who hunt and seek shelter in the root systems and shallow waters that surround. These species include many crustaceans, molluscs, and many juvenile fish such as barracuda who are protected in the roots until they are old enough to venture into deeper waters.
In some of the more remote parts of Raja Ampat it is even possible to spot saltwater crocodiles hiding out in the mangrove rivers and bays. All these species hang out in the nutrient rich waters of the mangroves. An ecosystem in its own, falling leaves decay in the shallow waters that provide nutrients to small organisms that in turn feed the larger species that come to hunt in these waters.
It is because of the vast number of mangroves in the area that the Dampier Strait that runs through Raja Ampat is such a nutrient rich body of water. The currents that run through this strait circulate the rich nutrients from the mangrove forests to all parts of the region where the tropical climate further stimulates the growth of micro-organisms in the water. It is because of these nutrients that Raja Ampat is home to over 1500 known species of coral and 700 species of marine animals.
While these mangroves serve to enrich the waters, they also are vital to maintaining the water quality of the water in the area. The dense network of roots serve as a filter system for sediment and other run off that originates in the higher branches of the water cycle in the lush tropical forests of the region.
This filtration system protects the delicate reef systems from contamination. These root systems further protect the coastline from erosion. The dense root systems protect the coastline from changes in the tide and currents and the erosion that is generally associated with water movement. These roots also serve to protect the coastline from surges, rising water levels and tropical storm effects and in turn the communities that call the area their home.
While the tropical forest of the region might account for a larger percentage of the plant growth in the area, mangrove forests store a much higher concentration carbon dioxide per square meter than the dense forests. With the current world crisis of global warming always looming it is more important than ever to preserve these mangrove forests. Unfortunately, the gradual rise in ocean levels and temperatures the mangrove ecosystems are gradually being pushed further inland. Paired with irresponsible development of mangrove rich areas. We face a true challenge in protecting these vital ecosystems.
Mangrove forest not only are vital to the environments and ecosystems of the Raja Ampat region they also provide the local communities and eco-conscious resorts in the area with a platform to develop a sustainable eco-tourism industry. The lush mangrove forests provide visitors with some of the most breath-taking landscapes to explore both above and below the water. From bird watching to diving and snorkelling expeditions these mangrove forests serve as the corner stone of the entire industry.
The value of the mangrove forests and the educational efforts by community leaders in the area have directly led to the preservation of large areas of mangrove forests and the decision to turn them into protected areas. For the communities of Raja Ampat this means that the development of mass tourism will be prevented, and the focus will continue to be smaller eco-sustainable resorts and homestays and in turn the economic and social growth of these communities.
Situated in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Meridian Adventure Dive is a PADI 5 Star Resort and winner of the PADI Green Star award. Scuba divers enjoy our professional services that have become synonymous with both the PADI and Meridian Adventure names. Raja Ampat is one of Indonesia’s most captivating diving grounds and is truly a paradise on earth.
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