Green Forest Product & Tech. Pte. Ltd. at MMM5!

Members of the “Bintuni Bay Mangrove Association”; company employees with former and current researchers during the MMM5 Conference in Singapore (July 2019)

Recently, Green Forest sponsored and attended the fifth international Mangrove, Macrobenthos and Management conference (MMM5) that was held in Singapore between July 1–5, 2019. This was the first time for this event to be hosted in South East Asia, even though one third of the mangrove forest in the world resides here. The attendance of this event also exceeded its highest record of over 320 people. The first MMM was in Kenya 19 years ago in 2000.  Thereafter, it took 6 long years before the second one was held in Australia, followed by another 6 long years before it reconvened in Sri Lanka. Rising in popularity within the mangrove community, MMM conferences were encouraged to be organized more frequently, as the next one was conducted a mere 4 years later in Florida, followed by this fifth installment in a record of 3 years. The next one will be in again in 3 years, 2022, in Colombia, South America. During MMM5, Green Forest presented 4 posters (one of which was from our supplier PT Bintuni Utama Murni Wood Industries) which doubled our contribution in MMM4. Congratulations to our research manager and National University PhD candidate Mr. Mériadec Sillanpää, and our sponsored student from Prince of Songkla University, Ms. Supakson Torasa, for winning the best student poster awards.

Although Green Forest has previously participated in MMM4, this is my first MMM and I hope it won’t be the last as I find it rich in content and more interesting than the other mangrove conferences I attended before. As a comparison, allow me to “categorize” the presentations (excluding posters) into several groups, and compare MMM5 to the last big mangrove gathering in Bali organized by ITTO. As you can see from the chart below, almost half of the presentation in the ITTO event focus on restoration, conservation and “management”, which is quite common. I placed quotation marks on management because the action is limited to conservation policy. In the case of MMM5, the presentations for this topic was still the second highest in number although much less proportionally. MMM5 was by far more balanced and significantly more scientific.

Types of research presented during the conference in proportion

Ecology—which I loosely call “forest interactions”—was the most popular subject for MMM5, where the research focuses not only on the tree itself but the dynamic between the tree, the ecosystem (surrounding environment) and the fauna. We tend to pay too much attention to what the mangrove forest provides in terms of services to the environment and community, although it would be good to see how other components provide tor the mangrove forest (such as the fresh water supply, the macrobenthos, etc.). Through ecological studies the complex dynamic within the forest is displaying what makes it ever more enchanting.

The third most frequent topic dealt with techniques, methods and in some cases, “apps.” The NASA Goddard team provided several interesting presentations related to remote sensing and some other tools that can be used to monitor the mangrove forest worldwide. There was also one with carbon sequestration/ecosystem services value assigned to it. Cool!

However, I would like to suggest that at the next MMM, the third “M”—management—needs more attention, particularly on the social aspects.  By this, I mean a more thorough understanding of the coastal community’s ways of managing the forest and improve its sustainability. It would also be interesting to understand the perspective of migrants—those who were not from the mangrove communities but are now making money from mangrove or converted mangrove forest, especially in Indonesia. It will also be good to understand and compare the management plan of Matang and/or Green Forest; how do we improve the value of the forest we manage? How do we maintain biodiversity, reduce waste, reduce logging impact?

From the Green Forest perspective, we would really love to see more discussion on silviculture techniques, forest management and economic development related to the mangrove forest. However, we do recognize the fact that the research interest in this subject is rather small, given the mood for strict conservation. While Blue Carbon is also of interest and could be developed economically, the understanding of how much blue carbon money can be made is critical. There were some “$” figures presented in the blue carbon segment, but what would be more important is to see this income system realized—not only on paper. We hope the next meeting in 2022 in Colombia (MMM6) can bring in practitioners of carbon credit that has completed their certification to share the lessons learned—as of today there are but a handful of successful cases worldwide. In addition, we hope to see more research on the improvement of mangrove forest silviculture,  new economic uses (such as tannin as an “organic” rust converter or replacement for chemical wood adhesive), and finally novel management approaches in holistic mangrove forest utilization that covers timber, non-timber, fishery, eco-tourism and carbon.

Finally, I should also comment on the lack of participants from Indonesia where our suppliers are based. Indonesia represents around 23% of the mangrove forest worldwide and is also one of the regions with the most mangrove losses in the past 20 years. Suffice to say, we need more scientists, practitioners, government institutions (forestry & fishery research and development) and advocates of Indonesia origin to participate in such an important event. We counted roughly 10 Indonesian participants, or about 3% of the participants in MMM5. Green Forest’s next goal is to promote MMM6 in Indonesia, so that at least we can get the number up to around 10%.

Overall, we all have the objective to protect the mangrove ecosystem. We all agree that it could provide a tremendous amount of value to our world. I myself owe my life, education and now my career to mangrove. The challenge is to put the money where the mouth is, not just in the unsustainable gimmicks of planting or in gimmicks of “mangrove-in-a-zoo” (small protective patches for ecotourism), but an integrated value creation that is everlasting. How can we make these swampy, sand fly-infested forest great again, in total area, in ecosystem functions, and in economic value?

– Muljadi Tantra
Chief Executive Officer
Green Forest Product & Tech. Pte. Ltd.