Kenya: Scientists Investigate New Mangrove Disease

Kenyan scientists are investigating a possible disease outbreak that is killing thousands of mangrove trees at the Coast.

This was revealed during the planting of 5,000 mangrove seedlings at Mida Creek to mark World Wetland Day after community conservationists reported to the Kenya Forest Research Institute (Kefri) a ‘strange disease’ killing the trees in Kilifi, Mombasa, Lamu and Kwale counties.

Environment and Forestry Chief Administrative Secretary Mohamed Elmi said the research will help identify the cause of the disease and how to cure the trees.

“Kefri is researching a disease that is affecting mangrove and we will get a solution very soon,” he said.

Mr Elmi said Kefri would buy 200,000 mangrove seedlings planted by women groups at the Mida creek, and urged Kenyans to plant trees from which they could earn money and also address climate change.

“One mangrove is equal to 10 trees. Kefri is doing research for forests and has been doing research for many years,” he added.

The lead researcher on the disease affecting mangroves, Dr Jane Njuguna, who is also the senior deputy director of research and development at Kefri, said a solution would soon be found to ensure mangroves continue growing healthy.

“The new disease was reported by communities living near the mangrove forest and we suspect it is caused by barnacles, which have led to the deaths of thousands of mangrove trees along the Coast,” she said, referring to the sea creature that often attaches itself to surfaces.

According to Mr Salim Athman, a resident and tour guide at Mida Creek, the disease manifests by the leaves of the Mangrove trees turning from bright green to brownish colour before eventually drying up.

“We have witnessed some mangrove trees turning from the natural green colour to light green and brown after shrinking before finally drying up,” he told the Nation adding, “The young trees dry up immediately after sprouting out from the muddy soil at the creek.”

Increase mangrove cover

Dr Njuguna said the researchers will continue working with the community to increase mangrove cover and obtain more reports about their growth across the region.

“The disease is caused by marine crustaceans, which have external shells that attach themselves permanently to trees and in the process suppresses the tree, leading to its death,” she said.

Dr Joshua Cheboiwo, the director of Kefri, said the institute had employed four ecologists who will work with the Kenya Marine Research Institute (Kemri) on mangrove research on Kenya’s coastline.