Experts find mangroves can slow surge
(CNS): Evidence from the latest scientific research suggests that mangroves can reduce the height of wind and swell waves over relatively short distance. According to a report by the Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International wave height can be reduced by as much as 66% over 100 metres of mangroves. With coastal populations particularly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme events such as storms and hurricanes researchers say mangrove forests can be used as a tool in coastal defence strategies making their conservation a key part of protection. Researchers say that more work needs to be done to better understand the role they can play in defending coasts.
While Cayman does provide for some protection of mangrove buffers under the planning regulations, the plant is still persistently removed in the face of development. This was evidence in 2010 when more than 370,000 sq.ft of costal mangrove was ripped up by the developer of the Ritz Carlton on land earmarked for the Dragon Bay development.
Michael Ryan was granted permission to rip out the mangrove more than two years ago but no development has taken place on the site. In addition the promised replenishment programme has also failed to materialize.
In this new report by the environmental researchers, the importance of dense healthy mangrove to protecting coastal areas from storms has been highlighted as the experts say the plant reduces the wave energy.
“While mangrove forests are usually found on shores with little incoming wave energy, they may receive larger waves during storms, hurricanes and periods of high winds. Large wind and swell waves can cause flooding and damage to coastal infrastructure. By reducing wave energy and height, mangroves can potentially reduce associated damage,” the authors of the new report state.
“All evidence suggests that mangroves can reduce the height of wind and swell waves over relatively short distances: wave height can be reduced by between 13 and 66% over 100 m of mangroves. The highest rate of wave height reduction per unit distance occurs near the mangrove edge, as waves begin their passage through the mangroves," the report finds.
It explains that waves are most rapidly reduced when they pass through a greater density of obstacles.
“Mangroves with aerial roots will attenuate waves in shallow water more rapidly than those without,” the researchers say. “At greater water depths, waves may pass above aerial roots, but the lower branches can perform a similar function. The slope of the shore and the height of the waves also affect wave reduction rates through mangroves.”
With confirmation that mangroves can attenuate wind and swell waves, the report states that research has focused on small but there is a need to measure the attenuation of larger wind and swell waves associated with greater water depths, which may occur during hurricanes.
“While more research is needed, existing knowledge is sufficient to substantiate the claim that mangroves attenuate wind and swell waves,” the report concludes. “Appropriate management of mangrove areas could increase wave attenuation. This might include the protection of mangrove areas in key settings, or lead to the restoration or planting of mangroves in degraded and deforested settings, where local conditions have been shown to support the establishment of mangrove seedlings.”
The authors go on to say that dense mangrove forest, including species with aerial roots will offer the highest level of protection from wind and swell waves.
See report here
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