Mangrove Restoration in Sembilang National Park. Sembilang National Park is a natural coastal wet land area with various forest ecosystems of peat moss swamps, fresh water swamps, mangrove forests and mud flats. Swamps and peat forests play important roles in balancing the hydrological system in the Park. Peatswamp forests and mangroves function as catchment and container areas to store fresh water from rainfall. About 70 smaller rivers meandering in the Park. This area is dominated by mangrove ecosystems.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided funds and training for the park management and fishpond operators to preserve the habitat for the area’s flora and fauna in Sembilang National Park in South Sumatra which is home to diverse species, is under threat. Each year, its eastern coast bordering the Bangka Strait is exposed to abrasion as deep as 15 meters, while fish pond activity is eroding the coastal area.
Along the road leading to the park’s seedling nursery center, replanted mangroves create lush greenery on the park’s coastline, serving as a barrier to sea waves responsible for the abrasion.
Mangrove restoration aims to ensure the survival of the worlds various mangrove species through preservation and conservation in areas where they have previously existed.
Head of Sembilang National Park Syahimin said the project had restored 200 hectares of the park’s coastal zone. Underway since 2010, the project is expected to finish in 2015. The project also involves people living in the Sembilang area who run fishponds.
JICA Chief Advisor Hideki Miyakawa revealed that thousands of hectares of Sembilang’s coastal zone are still waiting to be restored. The park covers 202,896.31 ha with about 87,000 ha of pristine mangroves.
“Degradation has mainly been because of fish ponds. But the breeders will abandon this zone within 20 years. So we should conduct restoration from now on,” said Miyakawa in fluent Indonesian.
Miyakawa suggested the planting of mangrove species other than Rhizophora Apiculata and Rhizopora Mucronata, which are cheaper and easier to grow but prone to insect attacks. “Various species should be grown so that when Apiculata is invaded by insects, there are still resistant ones,” he says.
The 200 ha already restored served as a pilot project in which technical guidance was provided for the mangrove rehabilitation effort. According to Miyakawa, the restoration cost Rp 15 million (US$1,228) per ha, totaling Rp 3 billion for the 200 ha, excluding the cost of participants’ accommodation and monthly honorariums.
A resident joining the project, Selamet Riyadi, 55, said illegal fishpond activity had caused damage to the park’s coastal area and the problem has been worsened by the abrasion coming from sea waves from the Bangka Strait, scraping away 15 meters from the shoreline annually.
“We’re virtually racing with the waves. Mangrove planting is the best solution for conserving the natural habitat at Sembilang park,” he added.
The park’s management, in cooperation with JICA, has built a 600m-mangrove trail to make it easier for visitors to observe the mangroves already planted. Each mangrove species bears a label with its name and plant description.
The mangrove trail is teeming with birds. Crab nest holes around the roots of mangroves are a common sight.
Snakes can sometimes be found looping mangrove trees. Deeper into the parkland are swamps and a secondary peat forest abounding with wildlife.
Among the animals roaming the park are otters, wild cats, Sumatran tigers, clouded leopards, deer and honey bears.
Resident bird species include oriental darters, milky storks, lesser adjutant storks and several migratory birds moving from Siberia to Australia.