Daniel M. Alongi
Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3 Townsville MC, 4810, Queensland, Australia.
Mangrove forests occupy a relatively small area (1,300 ha) of the coastal zone of Timor-Leste, being composed of fringing stands of relatively few species (a total of 19 true mangrove species) inhabiting sand-dominated deposits in small lagoons along the south coast and sheltered embayments along the north coast. Despite their small size and disjunct distribution these mangroves are heavily used as a source of food, and wood for housing and fuel, and have been used as burial sites during past episodes of violence during occupation. Links between mangroves and fisheries offshore are uncertain, but it is clear that net canopy production is low, equivalent to the mangrove forests in other dry tropical zones. Timorese mangroves face a very uncertain future in light of their small, fragmented distribution, heavy human encroachment, and forecasted rise in sea level.