The mangrove forests of Southeast Asia are highly biodiverse and provide multiple ecosystem services upon which millions of people depend. Mangroves enhance fisheries and coastal protection, and store among the highest densities of carbon of any ecosystem globally. Mangrove forests have experienced extensive deforestation owing to global demand for commodities, and previous studies have identified the expansion of aquaculture as largely responsible. The proportional conversion of mangroves to different land use types has not been systematically quantified across Southeast Asia, however, particularly in recent years. In this study we apply a combined geographic information system and remote sensing method to quantify the key proximate drivers (i.e., replacement land uses) of mangrove deforestation in Southeast Asia between 2000 and 2012. Mangrove forests were lost at an average rate of 0.18% per year, which is lower than previously published estimates. In total, more than 100,000 ha of mangroves were removed during the study period, with aquaculture accounting for 30% of this total forest change. The rapid expansion of rice agriculture in Myanmar, and the sustained conversion of mangroves to oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, are identified as additional increasing and under-recognized threats to mangrove ecosystems. Our study highlights frontiers of mangrove deforestation in the border states of Myanmar, on Borneo, and in Indonesian Papua. To implement policies that conserve mangrove forests across Southeast Asia, it is essential to consider the national and subnational variation in the land uses that follow deforestation.
Many drivers of mangrove forest loss operate over large scales and are most effectively addressed by policy interventions. However, conflicting or unclear policy objectives exist at multiple tiers of government, resulting in contradictory management decisions. To address this, we considered four approaches that are being used increasingly or could be deployed in Southeast Asia to ensure sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. First, a stronger incorporation of mangroves into marine protected areas (that currently focus largely on reefs and fisheries) could resolve some policy conflicts and ensure that mangroves do not fall through a policy gap. Second, examples of community and government comanagement exist, but achieving comanagement at scale will be important in reconciling stakeholders and addressing conflicting policy objectives. Third, private-sector initiatives could protect mangroves through existing and novel mechanisms in degraded areas and areas under future threat. Finally, payments for ecosystem services (PES) hold great promise for mangrove conservation, with carbon PES schemes (known as blue carbon) attracting attention. Although barriers remain to the implementation of PES, the potential to implement them at multiple scales exists. Closing the gap between mangrove conservation policies and action is crucial to the improved protection and management of this imperiled coastal ecosystem and to the livelihoods that depend on them.
Given predicted increases in urbanization in tropical and subtropical regions, understanding the processes shaping urban coral reefs may be essential for anticipating future conservation challenges. We used a case study approach to identify unifying patterns of urban coral reefs and clarify the effects of urbanization on hard coral assemblages. Data were compiled from 11 cities throughout East and Southeast Asia, with particular focus on Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Naha (Okinawa). Our review highlights several key characteristics of urban coral reefs, including "reef compression" (a decline in bathymetric range with increasing turbidity and decreasing water clarity over time and relative to shore), dominance by domed coral growth forms and low reef complexity, variable city-specific inshore-offshore gradients, early declines in coral cover with recent fluctuating periods of acute impacts and rapid recovery, and colonization of urban infrastructure by hard corals. We present hypotheses for urban reef community dynamics and discuss potential of ecological engineering for corals in urban areas.