Can you imagine having to live in salt water and stand in mud all your life? Well, mangrove forests have unique adaptation characteristics to help them survive in such harsh conditions. Let’s get to know their fascinating characteristics:-

  • Mangroves can live in both salt and fresh water

    They can live in water up to 100 times saltier that most other plants can tolerate;

  • Mangroves have tough root systems, special bark and leaf structures and reproduction adaptation.


The thick root systems of mangroves give them the support needed to live in soft and muddy conditions. Most mangrove species have roots that extend above the soil to absorb oxygen from the air.

Bark and leaf structures:

Their leaves have special salt glands that are able to get rid of salt. Some collect the salt in their bark or in older leaves that are about to drop.

Reproduction system:

Viviparity is one of the methods of mangrove reproduction. This happen when seeds germinate and develop into seedlings while still attached to the plant. Once matured, the parent tree drops it into the water, where it remains dormant until it finds the soil and is able to put out roots.

Mangroves and you! Mangrove forests are extremely productive ecosystems that provide us with abundance of goods and services. Let’s take a closer look at their importance:

  • Protect coastal communities against erosion and extreme weather and serve as natural barriers against tsunamis;
  • Provide shelter, feeding ground and breeding sites for many marine species such as fishes, crabs and prawns;
  • Provide resources for coastal communities who depend on the plants for timber, fuel, food, medicinal herbs and other forest products;
  • Natural water filters to maintain coastal water quality by filtering pollutants and nutrients from the water; and
  • Carbon storage in large quantity, even larger than terrestrial forests. Thus mangrove forests play a major role in reducing today’s global warming.

Malaysia is one of the 15 most mangrove-rich countries in the world but it was estimated that 4.6% of the country’s mangrove forests disappeared between the years 2001 to 2012. Sadly, mangrove forests are disappearing at a pace that is 3-5 times faster than terrestrial forests. They are facing numerous threats such as:

    • Rapid development

      Caused thousands of hectares of mangroves to be cleared to make way for buildings, infrastructure, aquaculture ponds and agricultural fields.

    • Pollution

      From agricultural run-off that contains fertilizers, pesticides and other toxic man-made chemicals that flow into the rivers. This could eventually kill animals living in mangrove forests. Oil pollution can smother mangrove roots and suffocate the trees.

    • Climate change

      Causes sea levels to rise in certain places that are drowning some species of mangrove tress.

    • Over-harvesting

      Wood in the mangrove forests such as excessive removal of trees for firewood, construction wood and charcoal production.

Setiu Wetlands is situated in Terengganu and is home to an impressive variety of flora and fauna including 29 mammal species, 28 reptile species, and 129 bird species. The size of mangrove forests in Setiu Wetlands is 388 ha, which accounted as the largest extent of mangrove in Terengganu.

What kind of plants and animals live here?

Some of the mangrove species that can be found at the river mouth and the 12 km Setiu lagoon are Bakau Minyak (Rhizophora apiculata) and Bakau Kurap (Rhizophora mucronata). ‘


As you move upriver, the mangrove diversity increases whereby you can find mangrove species such as Tumu Puteh (Bruguiera sexangula), Perepat (Sonneratia alba) and the Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris). 

As for the animals that live here, you may come across spectacled leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus obscurus) which are protected under Malaysia’s Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, swinging from the branches of trees, mud crabs scuttling sideways, green turtle laying eggs, birds chirping and even smooth-coated otters catching preys.

Rhinocerous Hornbill

Smooth-coated Otter

It also harbors many animal species that are either endangered or threatened such as the Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), the Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) and the Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros).


We need your support to help our ongoing efforts to protect mangrove forests in Malaysia. Our current conservation efforts include:-

  • Working with Women’s Society of Mangkok Village, Setiu (PEWANIS)

WWF-Malaysia helped establish PEWANIS in 2007 to engage the local community in conservation efforts. PEWANIS consist of a group of local women who are empowered to become the guardians of Setiu Wetlands to conserve the mangroves, wetlands, turtles and terrapins in Setiu.
In 2015, WWF-Malaysia and PEWANIS led visitors, teachers and students to plant 1,095 mangrove seedlings in Setiu Wetlands.

  • Working with government and other stakeholders

We are working with the government and other stakeholders to secure Setiu Wetlands as a protected area. Gazetting this wetland would be a major step forward in safeguarding the species and the valuable ecosystem services it provides for the well-being of the community.

  • Conducting regular conservation education, awareness and outreach activities targeted at the local community and students