China will have created and restored 18,800 hectares of mangrove forests by 2025, according to an action plan issued by China's Ministry of Natural Resources and National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA).
Almost half – 9050ha of mangrove forests – will be built over the next five years and 9750ha will be rehabilitated.
The plan aims to protect and restore mangrove forests to expand the coverage of mangrove forests, increase biodiversity, and comprehensively improve the ecological system of mangrove forests – and is designed to safeguard existing mangrove forests as well as providing scientific measures for mangrove ecological restoration.
Mangrove forests mostly grow on tropical and subtropical intertidal zones and are regarded as a typical part of the marine ecosystem as important as coral reefs, salt marshes, and seagrass beds.
Because of their important roles in various aspects of marine ecosystem conservation – such as seawater purification, prevention and dissipation of winds and waves, carbon sequestration and storage, as well as biodiversity maintenance – mangrove forests are praised as "coast guards" and "green lungs of the ocean".
At high tides, mangrove forests become a shelter for fish, shrimp, crab, and shellfish who live and reproduce there. After the tide falls, they become a haven for birds.
China has 37 kinds of mangrove plants, mainly in coastal provinces and autonomous regions such as Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Fujian and Zhejiang.
With the joint efforts of governments at all levels and relevant departments of the country, China has maintained a stable growth in the coverage of mangrove forests in the last 20 years, says Wu Zhimin, director of the wetland management department of the NFGA.
Last year, the coverage of mangrove forests in China reached around 29,000ha, with the ecology of those mangrove forests also improved, according to Wu.
"China's mangrove ecosystem is still facing problems and quite a lot of threats," Wu says, adding that these problems and threats have all been listed as key issues in the action plan and that the country will address them step by step.
Establishing conservation areas is an important approach to protect mangrove forests. At present, 52 nature reserves in the Chinese mainland have mangrove forests that cover 15,944ha, more than 55 per cent of the country's total mangrove forests.
China's protected mangrove forests are mainly in the coastal areas and island in the southeast, according to Yuan Jiming, deputy director of the protected natural areas management department of the NFGA. The mangrove forest regions are densely populated and enjoy rapid economic development.
"Certain protected areas are still troubled by the insufficiency of management organisations, lax supervision and invasion of alien species," Yuan said.
The action plan proposes to include all mangrove forests in China's ecological protection zoning map and specifies relevant regulatory requirements.
China's natural resources supervision and examination authorities and relevant departments are also expected to intensify efforts to protect the area, functions and nature of the country's mangrove forests.
Coverage of mangrove forests is declining around the world but East China's Zhejiang Province, the northern boundary of the country's mangroves, has increased coverage each passing year. Thanks to its efforts to protect coastal wetlands and rehabilitate the ecological environment of coastlines, Zhejiang is now home to 1,333.33ha of mangrove forests.
The survival rate and preserving rate of mangrove plants are the key to the restoration of mangrove forests. In the past, because of the lack of science-based approaches, some regions in the country failed to create forests though they kept planting trees every year.
So the action plan has set specific goals in creating and restoring mangrove forests, ensuring reasonable and rational plans of afforestation.
Relevant techniques, specifications and standards must be established, and follow-up management for the mangrove forests must be ensured after they are created, says Zhou Yuanbo, an official with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The Ministry of Natural Resources will provide financial support for local efforts to create and restore mangrove forests based on central government funding for marine ecological protection and restoration endeavours.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Finance have invested 600 million yuan ($131m) in this year's Blue Bay Initiative to support relevant provincial-level regions in the country to help mangrove forests protection and restoration projects.
This article was originally produced and published by People's Daily Online. View the original at en.people.cn.