Saturday, September 6, 2008

Coral reefs are facing serious threats from rapid deforestation in West Papua

by Charles Roring

Rapid deforestation is West Papua poses environmental threats to coral reef ecosystem.  Legal and illegal logging practices in this Pacific region are responsible for river flooding that brings mud sediments to the sea. These sediments cover sea grasses and coral reefs.

National Marine Park of Cendrawasih Bay is the largest marine park in Indonesia. The bay which was formerly known as Geelvink bay is the home to some 18,000 villagers who are relatively isolated from rapid industrialization. The sea which is their main resources of food is now facing environmental damages. During the rainy season, soil sediments, stones, and tree branches are flowing from the mountains polluting the coastal environment.  Sea grass is the source of for many sea animals such as dugongs and sea turtles.  The more sea grass areas are being covered by sediments, the less the source of food can be provided to these animals.

In addition, the sediments shipped by the flood to the sea bed have blocked sunlight and food which is essential to the growth of the reefs.

Coral reefs are one of the most beautiful ecosystems on earth. They provide food both for sea animals and human. Coral reefs are colorful. They provide shelter to fish. Healthy coral reefs ecosystem can provide 15 tons of fish and other seafood per kilometer per year for sustainable fishing communities.

Immediate actions have to be taken by marine communities to stop the destruction of coral reefs and sea grass ecosystems in Cendrawasih bay. Deforestation of riverbank areas will bring mud or soil sediments to the sea. Marine communities must launch massive campaigns against the deforestation of forests adjacent to coral reefs environment. Special regulations have to be introduced to tackle this problem. Therefore, forest concessions around the Geelvink or Cendrawasih bay have to be reviewed by the local government to assess their impacts both on land and marine environments.