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Are peri-urban mangrove forests viable? Effects of sewage pollution and wood exploitation on the structure and development of the mangroves of Mombasa (Kenya)

Mohamed Omar Said MOHAMED researcher laureate
msaid@kws.go.ke

°1974 Kenya
Master in Ecological Marine Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel & Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium, 2003

Are peri-urban mangrove forests viable? Effects of sewage pollution and wood exploitation on the structure and development of the mangroves of Mombasa (Kenya)

Mangrove forests are one of Kenya’s important ecosystems. They provide the local population - especially the poorest segment - with food (fish, molluscs and shellfish) and wood (firewood, charcoal and other wood products), and they protect the coastal belt. Moreover, mangroves are characterized by a great biodiversity.
In this work the negative influence of heavy population pressure on the peri-urban mangrove forests of Tudor Creek in Mombasa is evaluated in a soundly-underpinned and scientific way. Firstly, there is pollution caused by the dumping of sewage. The discharging of domestic waste water does contribute nutrients to the ecosystem, but rarely in the composition required for the optimal functioning of the ecosystem. For instance, it has been observed that the mangroves’ healthy aerobic-anaerobic composting system is turned into a fully anaerobic system in which nutrients circulate much more slowly and are retained in the sediment. Secondly, overexploitation of the mangrove ecosystem results in a reduced yield in wood products as well as a drastic reduction of biodiversity: Unregulated felling causes gaps in the tree canopy and seeds cannot travel from one place to another.
Yet despite the observed degradation of the mangrove system this study ends on a positive note, setting out potential solutions that take into account the existing situation - that is, the heavy population pressure. At present the mangrove ecosystem is for the most part public property, and so everyone can exploit it as he chooses. This study argues for the putting in place of an integrated adaptable system that is based on a comprehensive knowledge of the ecosystem. Everyone - and certainly the poorest section of the population - should have his due in this system too, but in a sustainable way, so that the mangrove ecosystem remains a major source of food and wood products in the future.
 

report: Prof. L. Duchateau, Department of Physiology and Biometry, Universiteit Gent, Belgium