Mangrove Rehabilitation with PAPSIMCO

 In Fieldwork, Mangroves

In the last couple of months, our volunteers have been a great help to the local women of PAPSIMCO (Palayuhan, Palimpinon and Siit Multipurpose Cooperative). PAPSIMCO is one of the people’s associations in the Municipality of Siaton, whom MCP works with to promote sustainable livelihood projects. Their largest scale project at the moment is the restoration of their local mangrove forests.

Mangroves are an extremely important ecosystem, globally. They stabilise the shoreline to prevent erosion and remove pollutants from the water. Their complex root systems trap everything that would otherwise drift out to nearby coral reefs and smother them. They are also extremely important nurseries for juvenile, reef fish because their roots provide habitat and shelter. Without mangroves, these juveniles would be forced out into the ocean at sizes far too small to escape predation from larger fish. Their complicated roots also slow incoming tides, forming large deposits of organic rich material. This soil is capable of storing more carbon than most tropical forests have in all their biomass and soil combined. They are therefore termed a “Blue Carbon” sink. These sinks are essential for storing the excess carbon in the atmosphere that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

Seen from above with our new drone, the systematics of the replanting efforts become apparent.

Mangroves are particularly important for the local community in Siaton because they protect the shoreline from strong waves during typhoon season. The mangrove forest in Tambobo Bay, where PAPSIMCO is based, has approximately 23 species but the mangrove nursery only contains a small subset of this climactic community because the project only started in 2018. By continually restocking the nursery and expanding the number of species it can hold, PAPSIMCO aims to eventually rehabilitate the entire mangrove forest of Tambobo Bay.

On this visit, volunteers needed to help restock the PAPSIMCO nursery with Sonneratia and Avicennia mangrove species (local names “Pagatpat” and “Bungalon” respectively). These two species are adapted to harsh environmental conditions such as strong winds, waves and salt water making them the perfect barriers between land and sea. Volunteers waded out into the deep mud with bamboo shovels to harvest the correct seedlings. When these seedlings are tiny, it can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between species. The PAPSIMCO members came to the rescue, assisting the volunteers and explaining the key differences in leaf shape and preparing sticks with red or green paint to help distinguish between species. On these occasions, our teams targeted mainly Sonneratia seedlings because this species only produce seeds once a year.

Volunteers collected a whopping total of 440 mangrove seedlings over just two Saturday mornings! These seedlings will remain in the PAPSIMCO nursery for roughly 7 months, until they achieve heights greater than 1 meter. Once seedlings grow taller than a meter, they are called saplings. Volunteers will plant these saplings out in the seaward area of the forest later in the year.

Saving the best news until last, MCP has just helped PAPSIMCO secure enough funding to remodel their broken boardwalk. This project will enable PAPSIMCO to conduct ecotours of the mangroves, educating tourists from all over the world about the importance of these forests for local communities, coral reef ecosystems and the global climate crisis.

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