|HOME SCHEDULE AUTHOR INDEX SUBJECT INDEX|
Mangrove forest research, conservation education, and ecotourism in Thailand: A pilot study using volunteers.
Morse, Jennifer*,1, Boschetti, Mirco2, Conti, Claudio3, Aureggi, Monica3, Nimsantijaroen, Sompoch4, 1 University of Maryland, College Park, MD2 Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche, Milano, Italy3 Naucrates (Onlus), Rome, Italy4 Ranong Coastal Resources Research Center, Kuraburi, Thailand
ABSTRACT- Mangrove forests in Thailand are extensive, rich in biodiversity, and a critical component of coastal landscapes, from human and ecological perspectives. Ecological functions and human services gained from non-destructive use of mangrove resources worldwide are threatened by large-scale commercial activities such as shrimp farming, logging, and development. To promote ecological research and mangrove conservation, Naucrates, an international NGO, has partnered with Ranong Coastal Resources Research Station, of Kasetsart University, and Golden Buddha Beach Resort to develop a volunteer-based mangrove research and conservation education program on Koh Phra Thong, a 100 km2 island off the western coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The project is based on a participatory model, in which untrained volunteers (often students or vacationers) join the research project for a two-week session. We report on the overall project model, research design, and results of the preliminary botanic survey and GIS mapping. The objectives of the first field season (July-August 2002) were to develop and implement methodologies for 1) plant identification, 2) basic environmental variables, 3) location and monitoring of transects and plots, and 4) data collection and input. With this baseline information and methods, monitoring will be expanded to other areas of the island and to faunal communities, to carry out long-term monitoring and research on mangrove zonation, expansion or mortality with changing sea level or storms, and human-induced changes such as clearing, cutting, or restoration. In line with Naucrates conservation goals, we also established a mangrove education program for the three schools on the island, and to the guests and Thai staff at the resort. Though the long-term viability of this project depends financially on volunteer participation, the model has been used successfully elsewhere to support basic research and monitoring, while involving local communities and training international volunteers in the conservation of threatened ecosystems.
Key words: forest survey, mangrove, volunteers, conservation