Myanmar’s mangrove forests are in grave peril

Mangrove forests are under threat across Southeast Asia and in the country of Myanmar alone more than 60% of them were lost within just two decades between 1996 and 2016, according to researchers at the National University of Singapore.

“Mangroves are one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems, and Myanmar is regarded as the current mangrove deforestation hotspot globally,” the scientists write in a study published in Environmental Research Letters. “Net national mangrove cover declined by 52% over 20 years, with annual net loss rates of 3.60%–3.87%. Gross mangrove deforestation was more profound: 63% of the 1996 mangrove extent had been temporarily or permanently converted by 2016.”

Most of the country’s mangroves have been converted into rice paddies, oil palm and rubber tree plantations, as well as areas used for aquaculture. The profound loss of deforestation in the country’s mangrove forests, which are critical for biodiversity, is the reason why Myanmar has been described as a primary hotspot of mangrove loss in the world. “It is quite incredible to consider that nearly two-thirds of all mangroves in Myanmar were deforested over a 20-year-period,” says Edward Webb, one of the authors of the study.

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