"Save the Mangrove"

 Oman’s mangrove forests get a facelift

MAN has embarked upon a long-term ambitious plan to enhance its existing mangrove forests and to create new forests along the vast 1,700-km long coastline, where dens of mangrove forests existed in the past.

Mangroves, the evergreen trees that grow in salty water of tidal zones, are not only beautiful to look at but also a source of innumerable benefits.

Under remarkably harsh and saline conditions, the hardy mangrove tree transforms the environment into a green and productive area. Equipped with special salt glands, leaves of the mangrove trees easily get rid of excess salt.
                                        A view of natural mangrove
                                              forest in Mahout Island

Molluscs, crabs and a great variety of fishes abound in the numerous Omani creeks, channels, and mudflats associated with mangrove habitat where they shelter among the roots and feed on leaf detritus.

Oman is treating Khawrs (saline creeks) and mangroves as special environments because they can be productive and valuable fish breeding and nursery areas, in addition to their unparalleled beauty for recreation.

Since mangroves hold out a special role in coastal environments, the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment (MRME) has launched an extensive mangrove afforestation.

The programme, launched recently, is among the most important environmental projects of this year and will cover more than 300 Khawrs along the vast coastline of the Sultanate.


Preparation of the site for the construction
of the nursery in Qurum Reserve, 30 July, 2000

A mangrove nursery established in Qurum Public Park and Nature Reserve last year has begun to yield good results now. The nursery, set up by the MRME in a friendly tie-up with Japan International Co-operation Agency (Jica), provided 11,000 mangrove seedlings this year.

These seedlings, transplanted in Khawr Sawadi in February, are showing robust growth, according to Shoji Tomoo, a Jica expert overseeing the project. Considering a survival rate of 60 per cent, about seven thousand mangrove trees are expected to grow fully in Khawr Sawadi, he added.

Mangrove forests are boon to coastal areas because they can protect the shores against erosion and juvenile fisheries get protection in mangrove trees.            

Collecting seeds in Qurum  Reserve, 2 August, 2000

Other areas identified for immediate transplantation of mangroves include Batinah, Bandar Khayran, Shinas, Barka, Sur, Ras Al Hadd, Salalah and surroundings of Mahout Island.

The most suitable sites for mangrove afforestation are the inlets in the above regions as they are protected against wave actions and provide shallow sea.

Aimed at restoring the entire coastal area to its pristine beauty of dense mangrove forests, the mangrove afforestation programme assumes special significance in this "Year of the Environment" in Oman.

Historic and archaeological evidences indicate that dense mangrove woodlands covered much of Oman's coastline and islands in ancient times, says Eng Mussallam Mubarak Al Jabri, head of Marine Pollution and Coastal Zone Management department at the MRME.

Growth of seedlings, 25 September, 2000

Some of the most dense and beautiful mangrove forests of the Sultanate are found in Qurum Reserve and Mahout Island. The Qurum Reserve contains an important site where pre-historic fishermen exploited the mangrove resources more than 7,000 years ago.

The average tree height in the reserve varies between 2.0 and 5.3 metres and in Mahout between 1.7 to 8 metre, and 2.8 and 6.5 metres in Shinas. The flat sandy island of Mahout, located about 400 km south of Muscat, is significant not only because of its luxuriant development of mangroves but also the Sultanate's shrimp fishery centre exists in this area.

Mangroves in the Qurum Reserve and Mahout are nursery grounds for juveniles of many commercial fish, including mullet, milkfish, croakers, snappers, cragnids and seabream, according to studies conducted by environmental experts of MRME.  

A whole view of the nursery, 9 November, 2000

"Rehabilitating one Khawr means you are creating a new environment. Once mangrove forestation is established, it attracts fish, birds, and wild animals", says Mussallam.

Says Mussallam, "the mangrove forest plays many roles such as coastal stabiliser, dispersant of energy of storms, tidal bores and wind, barrier to invasion of inland area by salt water, producer of nutrients and forest resources such as fuel, charcoal, fodder, timber and a wide variety of animal species. It is also a convenient nursery area for fish, shrimp, and crabs".

Shoji said illegal fishing in the Qurum Reserve was posing a danger. Mangrove trees nurture the juvenile fish.

Destroying such small aquatic fauna is a loss to the fishermen because after growing up these fish ultimately go in the sea and ultimately fishermen benefit. Fishing activity is banned in the Reserve, but needs to be enforced effectively," he said.


Starting transplanting in Khawr Sawadi, 24 February, 2001

Of the 45 mangrove species in the world, the most commonly found species in Oman is that of Avicennia Marina. It is also the main mangrove species growing in the coasts of the Arabian Gulf and of the Red Sea. Growing to a height of five to eight metres, mangroves are among the most productive ecosystems in the world.

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