The white sandy beaches and the vegetation found on our island periphery are very important in the Maldives island ecosystem. They form an important protection for the housing and infrastructure near to the shore, and are the main source of income for the tourism industry.
Of the tourists visiting the Maldives, it has been identified that 70% visit primarily for beach holidays. And strict regulations are in effect on the usage of sands. But there is serious concern about the plants in the country. The threat to biological diversity from vegetation is the clearance of natural vegetation and resultant destruction of habitat and reduction in natural vegetation.
The close proximity of all land to the sea results in comparatively high soil salinity and as a consequence the natural vegetation contains a high proportion of salt tolerant species, both shrubs and trees. Based on published plant species lists and vegetation descriptions, 583 species of plants are found in the Maldives and, of these 323 are cultivated species and 260 are native or naturalized species (Adams, 1984). Over 300 plant species are known to have medicinal values, (ERC, 2001) and are utilized for traditional medicinal practices.
In comparison to the rich terrestrial faunal diversity of the region, the Maldives demonstrates a rather small proportion of the representatives. This is the stats about vegetation. Large and rare plants have been wiped out in the islands. Fuvahmulah is an island subsisting unique characteristics. Its diverse ecosystem is a natural gift. But it is sad to state that its ecosystem is being recklessly destroyed.
Recently one of my friends informed me that large trees that are rare are being wiped out in my island, even in ecologically sensitive areas of the island. Hearing this message, I went with them to the areas where the destruction have been made. We were shocked. Large funa (Alexandrian Laurel) and dhambo gehe (Syzygium) are demolished, even near the wet lands.
Plants are the backbones of all the habitats. Land areas have to be used with the influx of population and also for various basic services, like housing. But it is important to preserve the ecosystem. Although we lack huge forests, the proportion of the vegetation existing in our islands provide us with almost the same benefits the ecosystem provide for other world communities the are surrounded by huge rain forests.
Deforestation has huge impact on climate, human health and our social life. So it is important to define the boundaries in which pants can be cut down for commercial use. It is also imperative to preserve large and rare plants for historical or cultural values. I hope that councils will take precautions and comprehensive plans to protect our environment.