Forum: Use mangrove trees to fight rising waters

An aerial view of Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat.
An aerial view of Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat. PHOTO: NATIONAL PARKS BOARD

The threat of climate change is looming and to combat this, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said billions of dollars would need to be set aside to fight the threat of rising seas.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli announced that the Government would be adopting nature-based solutions as part of these efforts (S'pore will tackle climate change with nature's help, Oct 22). These include planting more trees and, most importantly, actively restoring mangrove forests.

Mangroves provide multiple benefits to both humans and wildlife. One significant benefit is that they act as a natural barrier against rising sea levels. Mangroves help to achieve this by first creating a network of water channels. These channels become shallower over time through three factors: Organic matter from the tree, reduced sediment re-suspensions and sediment trapping. Ultimately, the sea beds will rise and will be higher than the rise in sea levels.

Singapore has high levels of sediments in its sea and studies have shown that in areas with high sedimentation, soil surfaces in mangrove areas can rise much faster than the local rate of sea-level rise.

Diverting from the primary benefit of restoring mangroves, the secondary reasons are just as important. Mangroves are home to a vibrant and diverse range of wildlife, and some are even believed to be native to Singapore. Furthermore, they act as an important pit stop for migratory birds such as the whimbrel, common greenshank and common redshank. Without mangrove forests, these species will no longer have a home to live in or places to rest in, and this would ultimately lead to their extinction in the long run.

Still, less than 5 per cent of the original mangrove forests remain due to urbanisation and population growth. Collaboration between government and environmental organisations will be crucial for these solutions to be effective.

Led by Dr Dan Friess from the National University of Singapore, The Mangrove Lab has done remarkable research about mangrove restoration and has been working with the National Parks Board to restore mangroves in Pulau Ubin. It would be splendid to see this partnership continue in other areas of Singapore.

Max Tan Dexuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2019, with the headline 'Use mangrove trees to fight rising waters'. Print Edition | Subscribe