Conservation biology and volunteer projects

    The study area of the project is a tidal creek (a tidal flat where a mangrove community has developed) located on the west coast of Phra Thong Island. Even though this relatively isolated ecosystem is small in area, it has a high level of biodiversity where Rhizophora apiculata dominates the plant species and Nypa fruticans is a co-dominant species. The importance and species composition of the area was studied during the first survey conducted by Naucrates in 2002. A total of 25 species of mangroves and 8 mangrove-associate species were discovered.

    On 26 December 2004 (when the tsunami flooded the west coast of the island, flowing for about 2 kilometres inland) delicate environmental balances were disturbed causing sudden changes in the physical-chemical characteristics of the environment. The mangrove forest was quite literally devastated by the sea water violence which flowed, both during the flooding phase and the receding phase, knocking down hundreds of mid-high trunks trees (Rhizophora spp., Ceriops spp., Bruguiera spp., Xylocarpus spp., Avicennia spp ec .).

    Between June and August 2005, after an initial general evaluation of the tsunami effects on the mangrove forest, we started some initiatives aimed at implementing a restoration project in this small ecological community with the support of Mangrove Action Project (MAP), Global Green Grants Fund, North Andaman Tsunami Fund (NATR) and Golden Buddha Members Committee (GBMC) (Conti, 2006 – Naucrates final report).

    The project was split into three different phases: Cleaning, Assessment and Restoration.
    Debris from the two resorts that was washed away by the tsunami was cleared from the area as much as possible and the re-planting of seeds and seedlings began. Local workers were employed and trained on mangrove restoration and management techniques.

    During January and February 2006, the Naucrates team, whilst working on sea turtles and reef conservation, continued the effort of planting seeds and seedlings at three different sites. In addition, part of the conservation education programme run by Naucrates in the local schools of the island focused on mangrove forest conservation and management.

    On 26 July 2006 Claudio Conti started work again towards the restoration of the area. Naucrates with support of NATR, MAP, ITF and GBB Members was able to host a group of 11 students from University of Birmingham who worked as volunteers on the island for 2 weeks.

    One group built a new nursery at the entrance of the tidal creek where seedlings were placed to grow. The nursery was built from large bamboo which was found stranded on the beach. The tall poles were collected and transported to the site, and then carefully cut and tied together to form the main structure of the nursery. The nursery was then enclosed using a green net in order to avoid to prevent the monkeys attacking.

    Another group walked the beach and collected mangrove seedlings of different species, which were than planted in the restoration area during the last two days of work. A further group transplanted little mangrove trees growing in places where they would not have survived and replanted them at the entrance of the creek.

    The final group, together with Thai workers employed for the occasion, cleared corridors in the mangrove forests, which were delimitated with sticks painted red. On the final two days all the groups planted new seedlings randomly in the area, with about 600 seedlings being planted. In addition to the hard fieldwork, talks were given to the students, and exercise and a test were organized one evening. A trip to show them the healthy mangrove forest on the east coast of the island was organized.

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    Naucrates is an Italian NGO \"onlus\" that focuses on sea turtle conservation and mangrove restoration.

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