The devastation of Cyclone Nargis, which left an estimated 140,000 people dead or missing, and the 2004 Asian Tsunami, brought world attention to the importance of mangroves in mitigating the affects of tidal storms. Mangroves provide a natural barrier to storm surges, protecting human habitation and productive farms further inland of the coast.
In addition to vital protection from cyclones and tidal waves, mangroves recycle nutrients from the silt carried by rivers, playing a key role in the unique ecosystem of estuaries. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), mangrove estuaries are 4 to 5 times more productive than tropical estuaries without mangroves. Mangroves are also recognized for their biodiversity.
According to the Washington-based Mangrove Action Project, Burmese researchers have found that 82.76 percent of mangroves in the Irrawaddy delta were destroyed between 1924 until 1999. This echoes a global trend of alarming mangrove loss. Human settlement, cutting of mangroves for charcoal and cooking fuel, and shrimp farming all pose a threat to mangroves in Burma, which are located primarily in the Irrawaddy delta, Arakan State, and Tenasserim Division.
Mangrove forests rely on the non-saline water from rivers. Any reduction in the volume of sweet-water to their roots causes mangroves to dry up, resulting into the salt-water intrusion, and subsequent soil-erosion.
More information on Burma’s Mangroves: