Biri Island is blessed with naturally occurring mangrove forests, with multiple benefits to humans and the environment. As elsewhere, however, these forests have come under pressure, and efforts are now under way to conserve and even expand their range.
Sometimes known as "greenbelts", mangrove forests along shorelines are a first line of defense against coastal erosion, in particular during storms.
World-wide, the area of mangrove forests fell from 18.8 million hectares in 1980 to 15.2 million by the end of 2000, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.(1) This represented a loss of 20%, with the largest decline by region occurring in Asia.
About half of all mangrove loss has been to fish ponds for commercial shrimp farming and other forms of aquaculture. Other reasons include property development, oil exploration, and the dumping of waste. Sometimes, they have been cleared by tourist resort operators just to make a nicer view.
In isolated fishing communities such as Biri, pressures on mangrove forests come from traditional uses for charcoal, fuel, and timber for houses, boats and fish-traps, and thatching material.
In 2007, the Community-Based Mangrove Protection and Management project was implemented in Biri, funded by the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFCF). The project aimed to contribute to the regeneration of the mangrove ecosystem by establishing a community-based mangrove management system. The project covered protection of 546 hectares and enhancement planting in 39 hectares. It has now been expanded to all eight barangays in Biri.
Mangroves shielded Sagaw islets' residents. Philippine Daily Inquirer report in wake of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), Nov. 29, 2013.