Bangkok growing mangroves to repair ecosystem

Traffic and tall buildings may be most peoples’ image of Bangkok, but Thailand’s capital does have a shoreline district and city officials are taking action to preserve its delicate ecosystem by announcing a plan to plant nearly 1,200 acres of mangrove forests to protect wildlife and improve the environment.

Mangrove forests stabilize coastlines, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides, according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There are about 80 species of mangrove trees and the intricate root system of mangroves also makes these forests attractive to fish and other organisms seeking food and shelter from predators.

At a ceremony last week to begin planting the mangrove trees, Bangkok Governor Asawin Kwanmuang said the mangrove forests in Bang Khunthian district are home to more than 70 types of aquatic animals. However, big waves and stronger currents have been causing the shoreline to erode more rapidly than expected. The shoreline is south of the center of the city, along the Gulf of Thailand and runs for nearly three miles.

“I believe that the mangrove forests restoration plan will make the forests become healthier and that it will nurture local residents and animals,” Asawin said.

Not all the animals that make mangroves their home are aquatic. The forests in Bang Khunthian are also a habitat for long-tailed monkeys and other mammals. The monkeys and other animals have increasingly been roaming into more populated areas in search of food in recent years as the forests disappear. Homes along the shore have been inundated or collapsed because of the erosion,forcing residents to relocate.

Studies by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) show that nearly 1,000 yards of shoreline have eroded during recent decades. The erosion has slowed in recent years to about five or six feet a year, a marked improvement from a high of an average 57 feet per year from 1979 and 1991.

At the ceremony last week, city officials and volunteers planted 8,000 mangrove trees in an area nearly four acres. The target for this year is to plant trees covering 40 acres.

Once the ecosystem is restored, the BMA would like to open up the area to the public as an eco-tourist attraction. However, preserving the ecosystem would be the top priority.

Governor Asawin said the BMA would build a bridge over parts of the forest so that tourists could walk above it and observe the views and wildlife without disturbing the animals living there.