An open public talk was held on 22 Feb 2019 in conjunction of “USM 50 Years” and WORLD WETLAND DAY. A total of more than 50 participants from USM, UKM, CEMACS (Centre for Marine & Coastal Studies, USM), FRIM (Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia), Forestry Department, MNS (Malaysian Nature Society, Penang Branch), Think City Sdn.Bhd. and NAHRIM (National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia) attended the 2 hours talk. The talk focused on the ecosystem services provided by the longest intact mangrove in Seberang Perai Utara, stretching from Teluk Ayer Tawar to Kuala Muda. The roles of this study site as Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA) were shared. The speaker, Dr. Foong Swee Yeok who has worked on mangrove ecology since 1996 then further elaborated the use of an ecosystem evaluation tool kit (TESSA) to estimate economic value of keys services provided by the mangrove forest and the adjacent mudflat. It is in the hope that these conservation efforts could further enhance the move towards gazetting this area into a permanent protective zone. The abstract of the talk is as below:
Teluk Ayer Tawar-Kuala Muda Mangrove & Mudflat: Why It Matters
The narrow strip of mangrove and mudflat (M&M) lining the coast of Teluk Ayer Tawar-Kuala Muda (TAT-KM) in the northern inter-state boundary of Penang-Kedah is an internationally recognized Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBA). There are many great values of mangroves, and supporting globally endangered water birds is only one of them as in the case of TAT-KM. The toolkit (Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment, TESSA in short) was used to further assessed several key ecosystem services provided by this IBA. The results from the TESSA exercise had shown that TAT-KM locked a significant amount of carbon in the plant and sediment with an equivalent of USD 21 million in terms of global climate mitigation. Other natural or existing ecosystem services from fisheries, coastal protection, improvement of water quality and nature-based tourism totalled up to another USD 6 million annually. We then compared the estimated value of the current state of this site with its most probable alternative use i.e. conversion to shrimp aquaculture ponds. This pilot study showed that economic value of TAT-KM in its natural or current state was far higher compared to the alternative option. This talk will further elaborate the findings from this study and discuss how they could be incorporated in promoting greater awareness for this precious wetland.