Text and photographs by Feng Yongfeng and Xiao Shibai
Just across the Qiongzhou Strait facing HainanIsland, the Leizhou Peninsula at the southerntip of the Chinese mainland is home to ZhanjiangCity of Guangdong Province. The peninsulais dominated by flatland with nary a hill or mountainto be seen. There, mangrove forests account for 33percent of the nation’s total, but unlike nature reservesfor other specific species, which congregate in clusters,the mangrove forests of the peninsula are scattered allover, some hidden in untouched nooks.
Zhanjiang’s Xiashan, Chikan, and Mazhang districtsare home to the highest concentration of man-grove forests. Lacing the 1,500-km coastline of theLeizhou Peninsula are 68 small reserves for two-thirdsof the city’s mangroves, which are protected by 1,300squads. Some mangroves can also be found within thecity proper, and municipal authorities planted themaround several key locations to accentuate the city’snewly constructed Sea Viewing Corridor.
Mangroves primarily grow at bays or estuaries,which explains their spotty distribution along thewinding stretches of coastline. Undoubtedly, it is dif-ficult for a single nature reserve to protect and manageall of these forests, but extensive local public participationwould make conservation a more realistic task toaccomplish.
Mangroves adjacent to a modern city can hardlyescape sewage. A mangrove forest in Xiashan District,for example, sits where the Lutang River empties intothe sea – along with at least three sewage pipes.
A mangrove injects its ecosystem with tremendousenergy capable of “digesting” the sewage. Theprinciple is simple: Urban sewage is usually rich in nitrogenfrom human excrement and phosphorus fromdissolved detergent. Both elements, however, workwell as fertilizer for the plant. In this sense, the mangrovesprobably should be thanking the waste waterfor bringing them sumptuous “food,” although thebeaches near the pipes are not so grateful.