Mangrove forests play an essential role in the surrounding ecosystem. Their importance to the sustainability of life (and livelihoods) has been confirmed in the testimonies of community members in seven villages along the west coast of Kolepom Island, during a field survey from 24 March – 1 April 2021. This survey comprises a series of initial data collection for mapping marine conservation area zones, which have been ratified through the Governor of Papua’s Decree no. 188.4/295/2019. Covering an area of 353,287 hectares, this conservation zone includes the villages of Konorau, Waan, Tor, Sabon, Kladar, Kawe and Yeraha.

In the survey conducted by the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Programme and partners, at least four mangrove species were identified, including Avicenia sp., Bruguiera sp., Ceriops sp. and Rhizopora sp. These four species are dispersed over 190.3 km, in an area spanning 74,577 ha of the conservation initiation region.

UNDP Indonesia

Kolepom Island (also known as Dolok Island) features several unique characteristics. The island is surrounded by a thick layer of sediment and fringed by mangrove forests. As a result of these geographical features, the area is not suitable for the growth of seagrass or coral reefs. However, for demersal fish and shrimp, it makes the region an ideal location for spawning, rearing young and finding food.

Following economic analysis, the future ecosystem value of Kolepom Island is estimated to reach Rp. 535,682,058,793/year, or approximately Rp. 7,186,023/hectare per year. This analysis is calculated based on the direct and indirect benefits provided by mangrove forests. The surrounding communities directly benefit from mangroves as a source of firewood and construction materials for housing, along with their provision of fishery commodities. In addition, indirect benefits include the prevention of coastal erosion, sea intrusion and carbon sinks. When viewed in greater detail, the highest valuation lies in the indirect use of mangroves, through carbon sequestration. This condition is suspected because most people only use mangroves to fulfil their daily needs, not for commercial purposes.

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This survey was conducted by interviewing residents in three villages to ascertain what social and economic benefits were found in the Kolepom Island area. The results of these interviews indicated that around 70% of the community meet their daily needs through the fishery of shrimp, demersal fish and mud crabs, which are then either sold in local markets or used for their own consumption. Uniquely, people in the Kolepom conservation initiation area do not buy and sell using money, but instead conduct most of their business through a barter system. During this survey, the enthusiasm of residents for the initiation of the conservation area was also noted.

UNDP Indonesia

For this reason, any efforts to establish conservation areas must also reiterate the inherent value and ecosystem benefits provided by such areas for the surrounding community. In addition, it is necessary to coordinate with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) through the Papua BKSDA as the manager of Dolok Island or Kolepom Island Wildlife Reserve, covering an area of 664,627.97 ha. This coordination is necessary to improve protection of the mangrove ecosystem, as a primary area supporting fishery commodities. It is hoped that the management of the mangrove area and the initiation of the Kolepom Island conservation area can be synergised, so as to provide benefits to the people who depend on this area.

(Dwi Ariyoga Gautama)