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Ilonggo Network

No mangrove planting in seagrass

I discovered a magazine last week with a picture that featured a mangrove reforestation in Isabela, Cagayan Valley Region, and from the look of it, you would surely think it is a very good accomplishment.

That is apparently the reason why it has been published in one of the newsletters of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, since it is a project under the National Greening Program.

Unfortunately, the picture also shows that the mangrove reforestation was established right in a seagrass ecosystem, which is still in good and healthy state. I called it a misplaced initiative, because, technically, it should not be the case.

Just like forests, mangroves, and coral reefs, the seagrass is a natural ecosystem by itself and an important habitat, too. Planting mangroves in seagrass beds would constitute ecosystem and habitat conversion, and it would ultimately result to the destruction of seagrasses. It is important to note, as well, that mangroves do not naturally occur in seagrass beds.

It should be understood that seagrasses are important food sources of numerous marine species, including the threatened green sea turtle. The seagrass ecosystem is serving as natural habitat, because it is a feeding ground and nursery of a variety of marine organisms, including fishes, crabs, shrimps and lobsters, among others, which are all commercially viable.

Destruction of seagrasses means reduction of our food supply from marine resources.

Another important value of seagrass is its ecosystem services, which many may not be aware of, including some DENR personnel, who are involved in the NGP. Seagrasses act as stabilizer of bottom sediments due to their thick and solid roots, and, therefore, they also prevent the occurrence of soil erosion.

There is no argument that we need to rehabilitate our mangrove forest because it is getting limited, especially in Negros Occidental. However, our team in the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation has also found out that some seagrass areas in southern Negros Occidental have been covered with mangrove reforestation.

A friend also called my attention to another proposed mangrove reforestation that will be established in Cauayan town, where seagrasses are naturally occurring. This is a very bad example, just like using exotic and non-native species in forest restoration.

It is necessary that proper suitability assessment shall be undertaken before the establishment of mangrove reforestation projects.

I talked to some DENR personnel and they said that they found difficulty in finding appropriate places in mangrove reforestation. That is true, primarily because most of the former mangrove areas are now converted into fishponds that are also covered with lease agreements with the DENR.

However, I am aware that many lease agreements covering fishponds in Negros Occidental have already been cancelled, and these are the areas that should be subjected to mangrove rehabilitation.

Given the prominence now of mangrove reforestation, as part of the post super typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation, I am afraid that additional seagrass areas shall be converted to give way for mangrove plantation.

Just like other natural ecosystems, let us also protect our seagrass ecosystem from further deterioration and destruction. We should be reminded that each ecosystem plays a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance .*

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