Chinese Internet users say a mangrove forest in Qingmei Harbor Mangrove Nature Reserve in Yalong Bay, Hainan province, is in critical condition.
Internet users have uploaded earlier pictures of the reserve, comparing them with current images of the area. They say that the forest is being destroyed by property developers.
A five-star hotel, a yacht basin and a group of villas have been built at the estuary of Yalong Bay in the city of Sanya.
Hainan is an attractive destination for Chinese tourists. Netizens say more mangroves may die due to further development in the bay as the country aims to transform the island province into a world-class tourism destination.
A newly-built high-class hotel and a yacht dock along with some villas now surround Qingmei Harbor Mangrove Nature Reserve where a great many mangrove trees have become yellow or withered, though a regulation passed by the provincial government in July, 2011 proposed that tourist facilities affecting protection and sustainable utilization of mangrove forests should be banned.
Mangrove forests serve as natural barriers to typhoons, tsunamis and prevent soil erosion, said Li Haiqin, a member with a local forests protection organization.
Rapid development has taken place recently, which is threatening the local ecological system. Plenty of coastal forests have been destroyed, Li said.
Experts have started to investigate the cause of the destruction of the mangrove trees, said Lin Guisheng, director of Sanya Wildlife Protection Center.
An initial investigation shows that the construction work at the estuary is connected, to some extent, to the deterioration of the mangroves, according to Wang Wenqing, associate professor with the College of the Environment and Ecology, Xiamen University.
Mangrove forests can effectively mitigate natural disasters, such as abnormally high tides and storm waves, according to Wang.
In 1980s, Hainan had a total of 170,000 mu (11,333 hectares) of mangrove forests, but the area had shrunk to no more than 80,000 mu in 2000, a local environmentalist said on condition of anonymity.
The vanishing of mangrove forests in large areas has led to a series of ecological problems, such as a decrease in aquatic creatures and an expansion of seashore wastelands, he said.


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