UNSW and UNESCO unite to research floating mangrove plantations

The UNSW Global Water Institute (GWI) and the Bangkok Regional UNESCO Office are together trialling the seaworthiness of deploying floating pontoons for growing and harvesting mangrove forests.

Mangroves provide numerous goods and ecosystem services that are beneficial to both people and coastal environments, however, mangrove forests are in severe decline in many countries due to legal and illegal clearing. This results in the loss of their multiple benefits to society and the environment, including essential shoreline stabilisation and coastal protection services.

UNESCO has demonstrated the feasibility of growing mangroves in floating platforms which, should they be implemented in tropical coastal areas, would provide sources of biomass and livelihoods for communities while encouraging encouraging preservation of shore-based natural mangrove forests. The ecological and economic services on offer would come with no increased pressure on freshwater resources nor competition for terrestrial land use. 

Scale-models will be built and used at the the world-leading research facilities hosted by UNSW’s Water Research Laboratory (WRL), to conduct testing of floating platforms prior to full-size pilot project implementation. The research will be jointly supervised by academics from WRL, GWI and the Bangkok Regional UNESCO Office. The results of the scale-model testing will provide insight into design considerations prior to field-based pilot projects.

The field-testing is anticipated to occur in two settings. The first will take place in development-fund recipient countries and UNESCO coastal biosphere reserves for the production of biomass for fuel afloat on the world’s tropical oceans. The second will occur in urban centres in Australian to incorporate public space and recreational considerations into the design and layout of the floating plantations.

Joseph Ashley will be working on the floating mangrove scale model testing at the Water Research Laboratory for the Honours project of his Bachelor of Environmental Engineering.


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