The Mangrove Lab

Geomorphology : ecology : ecosystems services : remote sensing


We use the broad framework of ecosystem services to investigate changes to coastal ecosystems, and how best to protect them. We investigate these questions from the patch to the landscape-scale, so we integrate a range of field-based and remote sensing techniques. Much of this research is conducted with Government agencies, NGOs and academic collaborators in SE Asia.

Focus 1 - Quantifying coastal ecosystem services

We have quantified above- and below-ground carbon stocks in mangroves, seagrasses and forests in Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia.. We use the CIFOR carbon protocol in order to compare our studies with others in the region. We have also conducted several studies to quantify the cultural value of mangroves in Singapore. We use several techniques to answer this question, including interviews, archival sources and photographs on social media.

Focus 2 - How are coastal ecosystem services affected by sea level rise?

We are investigating mangrove vulnerability to SLR using radionuclides and the Rod Surface Elevation Table (RSET) to monitor surface change. We have installed some of the first RSETs in SE Asia in Singapore and SW Thailand (in collaboration with Ken Krauss and Nicole Cormier, US Geological Survey) and have trained other researchers with installations in West Papua (with CIFOR), the Philippines (with Ateneo de Manila University, US Forest Service), Malaysia and China. We are looking to train more researchers and expand this network further - contact us for more info.

We have also conducted high-resolution topographic and vegetation mapping, as a base layer for vulnerability modelling, with the Applied Plant Ecology Lab (click here). We have taken this further by conducting topographic mapping of mangrove restoration sites in Sulawesi with the NGO Mangrove Action Project, to investigate which elevations are suitable for natural mangrove seedling establishment and to guide restoration design.

Focus 3 - How are coastal ecosystem services affected by land use change?

Remote sensing studies of vegetation change have been conducted a multiple scales, and include the impacts of local coastal management on wetland geomorphology and ecology (sites in Singapore and the UK); delta-scale land cover change (Ayerwaddy delta, Myanmar 1978-2010); national mangrove loss (Malaysia 1978-2011); and regional scale. We use a broad range of remote sensing techniques to monitor different aspects of the wetland environment and the impacts of management interventions:

- 3D Terrestrial Laser Scanning

- low-altitude photography from kites and blimps

- aerial photography

- airborne multispectral imagery (Airborne Thematic Mapper)

- airborne LiDAR

- high and medium-resolution satellite imagery (IKONOS, Pleiades, Landsat)

We have also investigated the impacts of land use change on habitat connectivity. We are taking a novel approach by combining field measurements of tree phenology, seed productivity, seed buoyancy, remote sensing and regional-scale hydrodynamic modeling (DELFT-3D) to investigate the distances and pathways in which propagules may flow from the local (Singapore) to the regional (SE Asia) scale, and highlighting key locations for restoration or protection in order to maintain ecological connectivity over the long-term.

Focus 4 - Reconciling coastal ecosystem services and threats through modelling, policy and PES

Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) is a potential promising instrument to conserve threatened coastal habitats, though there are a number of issues associated with it.

- PES needs reliable base line data in order to show conservation success, though huge variability exists in deforestation statistics for most countries. Several reasons cause this high uncertainty.

- There are potential tradeoffs between conservation sites that are good for carbon, vs sites that are good for biodiversity.

- Natural and anthropogenic external stressors threaten to reduce ecosystem service provision and the effectiveness of PES.

- Recently funded studies are now looking to take these data and model future ecosystem service provision, examining tradeoffs under different land use and sea level rise scenarios.

Where we work

We conduct research all over Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam. We have also begun working in New Caledonia and Madagascar.

 Collaborators include:

- Rajamangala University Sriwijaya, Mangrove Action Project, King Mongkut's University (Thailand)

- Mangrove Action Project, Universitas Hassanuddin, CIFOR, Universitas Negeri Papua (Indonesia)

- Flora and Fauna International (Myanmar)

- Institut de Recherche pour le D√©veloppment (Vietnam)

- University of Cambridge (Madagascar)