Mangrove ecosystems are a very important category of wetland systems that shelter coastlines and estuaries. Mangroves, especially in the tropics, are rich in flora and fauna. Their major environmental services include storm protection, shore stabilization, and control of soil erosion and flooding. They are also a biomass export and a nursery ground for marine life. In Thailand, however, mangroves rapidly disappear at the alarming rate of approximately 38,909 rai (6,225 ha) per year (Table 1.1). One of the major causes of mangrove clearance is the conversion of mangrove areas into the intensive shrimp farms which have become a very popular business venture, especially in the South of Thailand (CORIN 1995). Mangrove swamps are targets for shrimp farming because the areas are flooded with brackish water which become potential areas for aquaculture (Hassanai 1993). In fact, culture of banana shrimps ( ) and greasy shrimps ( ) has been practised for more than 50 years. In traditional methods, mangroves are only partially cleared but the intensive culture of black tiger shrimps ( ) requires full conversion of mangrove areas. This type of shrimp culture started as early as 1974. However, it was in 1985 when Japan’s increasing demand for shrimps pushed up the price to $100 per kilogram, and intensive shrimp farming boomed (Bantoon 1994).

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Economic Valuation of Mangroves and the Roles of Local Communities in the Conservation of Natural Resources: Case Study of Surat Thani, South of Thailand