Non-wood forest products

Nipa palm

The uses of this palm are many and diverse. It yields an important thatching material, which is used for the roofs and walls of rural houses. The shingles produced are cheap, light to transport, easy to fix and can last several years, particularly when used in houses with open stoves. Cigarette wrappers are also made from the young shoots of Nipa.

Another potential of the Nipa lies in the sugary sap of the flower stalk, which can be used to produce a sugary fluid. In the Philippines the cultivation of Nipa for alcohol production has been practised on a considerable scale for many years.

Apart from alcohol, three alternative products might also be profitably made from Nipa sap. The simplest product is sugar syrup, which can be marketed as a speciality sweetener like maple syrup. Another potential product is brown sugar, which is popular in developed countries as a form of "health" food. The third and possibly most important product is vinegar, which can be used in domestic cooking, industry and for preserving food. Nipa vinegar could be an important substitute for industrially produced vinegar.


Honeybees, from the genus Apis, have been exploited by man for thousands of years. Apis mellifera, which is native throughout Africa, most of Europe and the Middle East, is the best known and most widely spread species.

There are no honeybees native to the Americas, Australia or the Pacific area although during the last 400 years or so Apis mellifera has been introduced from Europe to these areas (Bradbear, 1990).

Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa and Conocarpus erectus are important sources of nectar and pollen in these areas, and Rhizophora mangle is also reported to be a melliferous plant (Hamilton and Snedaker, 1984).

In Asia, apiculture is an important activity in Burma, Bangladesh and India. In the Sundarbans, beeswax and honey are produced by wild bee swarms that build hives on branches, in tree holes and crevices. The hives and trees are often destroyed during collection. It was estimated that about 9 300 trees were felled in the 1982/83 season to produce 233 tonnes of honey and 58 tonnes of beeswax, whereas under proper management about 1 550 hives would have sufficed (Christensen and Snedaker, 1984).


As in other forest types, the wildlife in the mangroves is an important source of protein for the local community. In addition, some species, especially reptiles, are hunted or reared for their hides. Here are some examples of traditional utilization of selected wildlife species found in mangroves:

The the wild boar (Sus scrofa) is often found marauding in the swamp margin and it is a source of bushmeat in Asia.

The marine Green turtle (Chelonia mydus) found in Myanmar and other Asian countries grows up to 400 lbs in weight and 4-4.5 feet long. It lays about 100-200 eggs at a time. Both the eggs and flesh are eaten by the local people.

Crocodiles and alligators are being hunted all over the world for their valuable skin.

Fisheries products

From an economic point of view, mangroves are often far more important for the aquatic production they support than for the wood production potential. Kapetsky (1985) estimated that the average yield of fish and shellfish in mangrove areas is about 90 kg/ha, with maximum yield being up to 225 kg/ha. According to this author, the total halieutic production of the world's mangroves would be around 1 000 000 tons per year (for an estimated area of 83 000 km2 of open water in mangroves), which is slightly more than 1 percent of estimated total world production in all waters per year.


In Thailand, the main commercial fish species caught in or close to mangrove areas include mullets (Liza subviridis), sea bass (Lates calcarifer), snappers (Lutjanus spp.), tilapia (Tilapia spp.), groupers (Epinephelus spp.), sea catfish (Arius spp.), threadfins (Eleutheronema spp.) and snake eel (Ophichthus microcephalus) (Christensen, 1982).

The most important fish in West Africa is the "Bonga" (Ethmalosa fimbriata). Other genera of importance in the same family (Clupeidae) are Sardinella and Pellonula. Tilapia is also very important. In East Africa, Tilapia and Cyprinus are among the sought after genera, followed by mullets, eels and milkfish (Chanos chanos).

In Latin America, mullets and snappers are among the most common fish caught in and around mangrove areas.


The main edible crabs (Scylla serrata in Asia and East Africa and Callinectes latimanus in West Africa) are a highly valued mangrove products, and are caught by locally produced traps or by using crab hooks to fish the crabs out of their burrows. Other edible crabs that are diversely valued depending on countries include some Sesarma, Cardisoma and Thalamita species (SECA/CML, 1987).

Shrimps are usually caught with push nets along shallow creeks within the mangroves and by off-shore trawlers. In Matang, eleven commercial species of shrimps are landed, with the bulk of the catch consisting of Metapenaeus affinis, M. brevicornis, Parapenaeopsis sp. (notably P. hardwickii and P. hungerfordi) and Paenaeus merguiensis/penicillatus.

Other harvested shellfish include clams (Anadara sp.), oysters (Crassostrea tulipa), mussels and snails.


Traditionally mariculture, involving the use of a system of man-made ponds in rearing specific marine or brackish-water animals, has been practised in Indonesia for hundreds of years. Ponds "tambaks" were constructed to rear milk-fish (Chanos chanos). Along the mangrove waterways, creeks and estuarine waters, a rich tradition of artisanal mariculture has evolved and fish constitutes an important part of the peoples' protein supply.

The main types of open-water estuarine mariculture include:

  • bottom culture (where no enclosures are used) of the Blood Cockle and of seaweed
  • cage culture of fish - e.g. milk-fish (Chanos chanos), sea bass (Lates calcarifer) and grouper (Epinephelus tauvina)
  • raft and cultch culture of oysters and mussels.

Pond culture

Mangrove areas in many developing countries have been converted into large aquacultural ponds used mainly for rearing shrimps rather than fish due to high export demand and shrimp prices. This occurs particularly in areas where the coastal waters are rich in nutrients, stocked with wild post-larvae and juvenile shrimps of commercial species, and the tidal range is favourably high (about 3 m). Shrimp-ponds are constructed in the mangroves because the sheltered and shallow estuarine areas are the natural habitat of a variety of commercial wild shrimp, providing gravid females and abundant postlarvae and juveniles.

Bradbear, N. 1990. Beekeeping in rural development. Cardiff, United Kingdom, International Bee Research Association.
Christensen, B. 1982. Management and utilization of mangroves in Asia and the Pacific. FAO Environment Paper No. 3. Rome.
Christensen, B. & Snedaker, S.C. 1984. Integrated development of the Sundarbans: Ecological aspects of the Sundarbans. FO:TCP/BGD/2309(mf). FAO Field Document No. 3. Rome.
Hamilton, L.S. & Snedaker, S.C. 1984. Eds. Handbook for Mangrove Area Management. IUCN/UNESCO/UNEP. Honolulu, Hawaii, East-West Center.
Kapetsky, J.M. 1985. Mangroves, fisheries and aquaculture. FAO Fish. Rep. 338. Suppl.: 17-36.
SECA/CML. 1987. Mangroves of Africa and Madagascar. Conservation and Reclamation. SECA/CML/CEC.

Extracted from
FAO. 1994. Mangrove forest management guidelines. FAO Forestry Paper No. 117. Rome.

last updated:  Thursday, May 19, 2005