Mangroves occur in the tropics and subtropics region and an important coastal habitat for the artisanal fisheries along the coast of Indonesia. Around 19% of the total mangrove area in the world is located in Indonesia. Besides providing a barrier against coastal/Delta erosion, mangrove forest plays a significant role as a nursery area for most of the marine communities. Unluckily, 57% of the ±3.2 million ha of the mangroves in Indonesia is currently in degraded, mostly because of human activities (anthropogenic disturbance). The primary sources of anthropogenic disturbances to mangroves are increasing population growth rate and demand for seafood products as an essential protein, especially the wild shrimp, in the world market. These resulted in land-use conversion along estuarine areas not only for settlements and plantations but also for aquaculture ponds. The lack of awareness and understanding of the value and function of mangrove ecosystems contributed to the loss and damage the mangroves area.
Therefore, my research and field experiment aimed to quantify the effects of human disturbance on mangroves associated trophic cascades in Indonesia estuarine areas. The study was performed in the Berau District, East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 2005 and 2010. Data of mangrove extent from 1990 in the Berau Delta was used as base data with low human disturbance. We also interviewed the artisanal fishermen about their catches, origins, and fishing locations, in relation to the total catch per unit effort (CpUE).
The results had shown that the total mangroves area in the Berau Delta decreased by 54% between the 1990 and 2009, which led to fragmentation and alteration in the structural complexity of mangroves. The field experiment conducted at three locations with different levels of human disturbances revealed that the species richness was decreased with increased the level of human interference and the marine community tended to be dominated by only a few species. In the highly disturbed areas, the catch of small-scale fishermen tended to be lower. Furthermore, the result from a spatial statistical model indicated that the disturbance of mangrove habitats was influenced the distribution pattern of shrimp. The total CpUE of small-scale fishery in the study area was relatively small, and the area was probably not overexploited.
As a conclusion, mangroves habitat in the Berau Delta played a significant role in sustaining coastal fisheries. This important ecosystem supports a primary source of marine protein. Mangrove forests can only guarantee these marine resources if the people consciously maintain its viability through a strong management policy.