Forestry and Environment Sympoisum 2002, Sri Lanka

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

MANGROVE VEGETATION: CASE STUDY OF PANAMA LAGOON IN EASTERN SRI LANKA

H. I. Tillekaratne1 & S.N.Wickramaratne2
1Department of -Botany, University of Peradeniya
2Department of Geography, University of Peradeniya
Although most of mangroves of the western and southwestern coast of Sri Lanka have been destroyed or degraded, those in Panama have not been noticeably affected by human activities. Mangroves of Panama occur in scattered patches in estuaries and lagoons between Wila Oya estuary and Okanda.
However, those in the Panama Lagoon of' Wila Oya estuary are more prominent. The present study was carried out to examine the distribution and composition of the Mangroves in the Wila Oya estuary. It was based on a random rapid field survey. This shallow lagoon is characterized with two islets (areas: 10 and 1 ha. approx.) and the margins of the lagoon as well as the- islets have fringing mangroves that extend into the estuary.
There are six dominant woody obligate mangrove species in the area; Aegiceras corniculatum, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Ceriops tagal, Excvecaria agallocha, Lumnitzera racemosa and Rhizophora mucronata along with three mangrove associates; Calophyllurn inophyllum, Garcinia spicata and Thespesia populnea. Absence of the mangrove fern Acrostichum aureum and the palm Nipa fruticans is a striking feature.
Human activities in the Panama Lagoon and Wila Oya estuary are confined to fishing. Also occasional anchoring of small sea-going vessels is seen. At present the mangroves of Panama are unique as an undisturbed coastal wetland system near a populated area. Nevertheless, a recent proposal to exploit these fragile mangroves for `prawn culture' indicate the possibility of their future disruption.
Therefore, development of non-extractive ways such as water-based Eco-tourism in Panama Lagoon can be a better alternative. Location of Panama relative to Arugam Bay, Kumana, Lahugala and 12uhuna national parks and Okanda gives this potential to this area.

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