It was in 2017 when we first visited Sasmuan City in Pampanga, Philippines, to assess the Bangkung Malapad mangrove site for our Connected Mangroves project. We wanted to replicate the success of the Connected Mangroves project we carried out in 2015 in Malaysia, so we set out to install soil and water sensors and a CCTV camera on site. The data and images from the site have enabled the community to better manage the area and have generated great public interest in these wetlands.
These coastal wetlands include mudflats, mangroves, and riparian habitats that serve as important stopping points for migrating waterbirds on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. As such, protecting Bangkung Malapad was essential for maintaining the region’s biodiversity, providing a natural barrier against typhoons, floods and other natural disasters, sequestering carbon, and enabling the community to earn money. ecotourism.
From 2018 to 2019, working with our client partner for the project, Smart Communications, Ericsson worked with the community to identify how sensors and cameras were supporting them in their day-to-day mangrove protection work. The cameras, they said, have helped reduce the incidences of unauthorized visits to the site. And as people became aware that the site was being watched, they were also more educated on how they could act more responsibly. It was also in 2019 that the community, in collaboration with other partner organizations expert in mangrove conservation, decided that the main objective would be on-site protection, rather than replanting mangroves. Experts had determined that the location of Bangkung Malapad, located at the mouth of the Pampanga River, meant that the flow of water should not be impeded by mangroves in some places. We then worked with the community to identify how we could support better site protection.
In January 2019, we were greeted with news that an endangered bird species never seen in the country for the past 100 years, the black-faced spoonbill, was sighted in Bangkung Malapad. We were very pleased to see it reported as news in the country’s leading news daily, as it served to further strengthen the community’s efforts to make this site a wetland of international importance. In their request to be recognized as such, the community cited the Connected Mangroves project as proof of the site’s relevance, given that organizations such as Ericsson and Smart were supporters of the project. In particular, the spatulas were revised in greater number the following year.
What has happened since?
As the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from doing more work on the site in 2020, in early 2021, Bangkung Malapad was ultimately named as the 8th of the Philippines.e Ramsar Site (Site 2445), obtaining the designation of “Wetlands of International Importance”. This was cause for celebration as it meant the site would have increased protection against the local government.
As the site’s focus shifted to protection, we asked ourselves: what other technology could we use? And then we thought: could we train AI cameras to help the community with the annual migratory bird census? We worked with our AI team in MOAI to test this, and the answer was a definite yes. The cameras have accurately identified the bird species at the protected site using test photos, and we know they will only get better as they encounter more and more images and receive comments on the accuracy of their identification.
Today we are in the process of installing the AI cameras in Sasmuan and we are excited to see how this could contribute to efforts to protect and conserve biodiversity. We have also been approached by our government partners to investigate the possibility of using AI to help with phenology, or cyclical biological events throughout the life of mangroves. The aim of the study is to collect information that would indicate to forestry experts when the right time would be to collect seeds from mangrove trees, which would in turn be used for reforestation efforts across the country.
We can’t wait to see what the AI cameras see, as it will give us better insight into the success of site protection efforts and allow us to take a closer look at mangrove life. They do so much to mitigate climate change, keep the ecosystem balanced, and protect the lives and livelihoods of the communities that live near them, so we are happy that we were able to continue this journey to protect them, with our partners and the Sasmuan community.
And we’re glad we’re not the only ones committed to using technology to protect the environment. Our work to protect mangroves is now part of 1t.org, a platform dedicated to the conservation, restoration and cultivation of 1,000 billion trees by 2030. 1t.org is part of the efforts of the Economic Forum global initiative to accelerate nature-based solutions and was created to support the United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.
One final story: On our first visit to the site in 2017, we also went to visit the town church, built in the 1800s, considered one of the oldest churches in the region. We were delighted to learn that their patroness is Saint Lucia (Sankta Lucia as it is called in Sweden). We haven’t forgotten that she is considered the Patroness of the Eyes – we like to think AI cameras will be an extra gaze for the community, as they continue their important work of protecting the mangroves.
Read Ellen’s previous blog post on the Connected Mangroves reforestation project.
Learn more about Ericsson and sustainability.