Mangrove forest reduced to a third in 30 years

The extent of mangrove forests in Macau, which can purify the SAR’s waters, has been reduced to a third in the last three decades, a university researcher told Lusa today (Wednesday).

“There were 60 hectares in the 1990s, and now there are about 19, more centred in parts of Taipa, Cotai and Coloane.

The pressure of urbanisation destroyed them, but there is now a great effort by the authorities to reforest these areas with the collaboration of the University of São José,” explained environmental engineer Cristina Calheiros, a lecturer at the institution.

“The mangrove forest is like a natural water treatment station. They are ecosystems used to salinity and help to purify the water, to remove pollutants, heavy metals, serving as support to decontaminate the water,” contextualised the academic, who has a PhD in biotechnology.

Cristina Calheiros stressed that mangroves are an essential environmental contribution with benefits that include phytoremediation, as they are carbon sequestrators and nesting places, but also at an economic level because these forests “are maternity areas for fish, crabs, bivalves and other marine animals”.

In other words, he concluded, “it is an example of how Macau should adopt nature-based solutions.

As well as the conservation of wetlands and mangrove forests, other responses should be given in Macau, he said, where the authorities can lead by example.

Solutions that also include actions in buildings, such as the creation of vertical gardens and green roofs, because, said the vice president of the National Association of Green Roofs, “what is done at the level of buildings and on land has a direct impact on the sea,” giving the example of management and policies for plastic, one of the major pollutants in the oceans.

And Macau, one of the most densely populated territories in the world, has been confronted with “the kind of pressures seen all over the world” of “growing urbanisation, sealing of the surface, degradation of coastal areas, air and water quality, and lack of green spaces”.

With the added problem of climate change, more extreme conditions and more sudden rainfall events, urban runoff that goes into the sea affects water quality, requiring investment in sanitation and drainage in a territory that also has to consider the potential factor of pollution from neighbouring regions.

The University of São José has also promoted environmental awareness/education actions to respond to the need to involve everyone in the same mission, in line with the conviction that it is necessary to have “a holistic view of the problem”, he insisted.

After all, he concluded, “it is necessary to bet on environmental literacy”. And “set an example”, he added.