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Guangdong Mangroves on Verge of Extinction

Liang Guozhao, a member of the Standing Committee of the Guangdong Provincial People's Political Consultative Conference, warned that the number of mangroves had plummeted 86 percent over the past few years and that remedial action is urgently needed.

Huang Tao and Zhang Kai, both deputies to the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress, conducted inspections of the state of mangrove forests in Zhanjiang and Maoming, two coastal cities in the province. They also called for immediate attention to the critically endangered trees.

Expansion of ports, urban construction and extensive development of the fishing industry are the main reasons for the degradation of the mangrove forests, according to the deputies' reports.

The rehabilitation of the mangroves tops the wetland protection agenda in Guangdong Province, one of the country's major natural mangrove habitats with its tropical and sub-tropical ecosystem. The province plans to plant about 50,000 hectares of mangroves along the coastal area starting this year.

China's mangroves are mainly found in Guangdong, Hainan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The provincial forestry authority indicates that the coastal areas had more than 20,000 hectares of mangroves a few decades ago. Now only about 3,400 hectares are left.

The loss of mangrove forests means that wetlands birds will lose their habitat and breeding places. The World Rainforest Movement reported in February 2003 that shorebirds were conspicuously scarce even in the protected area at Zhanjiang, at a time of year when such migratory birds should be plentiful.

"It's urgent to protect the mangrove wetlands," said He Zhijun, director of the wildlife protection office with the Guangdong Provincial Forestry Bureau.

He estimated that the massive mangrove replanting may cost more than 100 million yuan (US$12 million).

China is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which came into force for the country in July 1992. China presently has 21 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, covering some 2.5 million hectares. The Zhanjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve is the largest mangrove forest wetland reserve in the country.

(China Daily, China.org.cn August 13, 2004)

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