Why Mangrove trees are so important?


10 Intriguing Facts about Mangrove Trees

Most people visiting rivers, lakes, or coastal towns are engulfed with the breathtaking beauty of green trees that majestically climb out of water bodies in a canopy of tangled roots, thick limbs, and low hanging branches. Very few of us know that this sight belongs to the Mangrove tree, one of the most fascinating trees on the planet.

Mangrove forests are equated in their importance to coral reefs due to extremely productive ecosystems that provide various goods and services to the environment and people [1]. According to a recent report, these goods and services are estimated to be worth US$186 million each year. Mangroves typically grow in areas with low-oxygen soil, where slow-moving waters allow fine sediments to accumulate [2]. There are many aspects that make these trees so remarkable, and here are a few of those points.


1. Salt toleration

Mangroves are extremely tough trees, and they are the only species of trees in the world that can tolerate saltwater. They can tolerate saltwater up to 100 times more than most other plants can tolerate. Many species survive by filtering out as much as 90 percent of the salt found in their surrounding seawater. While most live on muddy soil, some species also grow on sand or coral rock. Mangroves are more robust than most trees; they can survive daily flooding by ocean tides which would drown any other forest [3].


2. Many Mangrove species

While the exact number of species is unknown, there is estimated to be around 80 species of mangroves, 60 of which live on coasts between the high- and low-tide lines. The most common types of mangroves are red, black, and white species, with only 12 species living in the Americas. Mangroves vary in size from small bushes to the 60-meter giants in Ecuador [3].


3. Coasliners

Mangrove forests can be found on the coasts of 118 tropical and subtropical countries [5]. Mangroves are mainly found in Asia (42% of all species), Africa (21%), North and Central America (15%), Oceania (12%), and South America (11%) [6]. Around three-fourths of all mangroves are located within only 15 countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia. These majestic trees have undergone a severe decline in their numbers over the years. In the Philippines it is estimated that 60% of Mangrove forests have been cut-down, with a global decrease in tree density standing up to 50% of all mangroves; the current rates of loss may be as high as 1% per year [7].


4. Championing reforestation

Mangrove forests have self-healing abilities without any reforestation efforts, provided that seedlings exist in close proximity to existing mature trees, and tidal wave hydrology remains unchanged due to any environmental factors. Once those two conditions are met, there is no need for any re-planting efforts. Therefore, any active reforestation efforts must begin by determining the suitability of existing environmental conditions, and correcting any problems first, before resorting to re-planting initiatives [8].


5. Food source

Mangrove forests form a vital source of food for thousands of coastal communities around the world, and as such are home to a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species. A study on the Central American reef, for example, revealed that there are “as many as 25 times more species of fish on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been cut down.” This study demonstrates the importance of mangrove forests to coral reefs as well as commercial fisheries.[9].


6. Animal habitat

Mangrove forests are also nesting and migratory sites for hundreds of bird species, and home to a wide range of reptile, amphibian, and mammals. For example, the Sunderban mangroves of India and Bangladesh - the largest mangrove forest on Earth - are home to Bengal tigers, spotted deer, and various dolphin species.[10].


7. Economy boosters

Mangroves have many ecological and economic benefits, depending on their country of origin. For example, while they have generally been exploited as a wood source for building homes and boats “they are used to construct jetties and other submerged structures because they are resistant to rot and to attack by fungi and borers.”
In Pakistan, they provide excellent fuels for train boilers. In Indonesia, mangroves were exploited for charcoal since 1887. Moreover, Mangroves are used in flavoring agents, textiles, mats, paper, housing, baskets, boats, and tapa cloth and also used as staple food [11].


8. Ecological benefits

Ecological benefits of Mangrove trees include how they provide protection for coastal communities from tropical cyclone storms and prevent coastal erosion [7]. They are also excellent protectors that stabilize shorelines by reducing wave and wind energy from sea and ocean currents, which in turn aids in the protection of inland structures.[13]


9. Expert carbon scrubbers

Mangroves “store carbon two to four times more than mature tropical forests and store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests” such as the Amazon rainforest 14. Our reforestation partner Eden Reforestation Projects estimates that a mangrove tree offsets 12.3 KG CO2 per year on average in their plantation.


10. Protects from flooding

While there are countless Mangrove reforestation efforts across the globe, Vietnam offers a prime example of the direct benefits incurred as a result of these trees. In 2005, Typhoon Damrey hit the Da Loc commune, a Vietnamese coastal city, most dikes broke-down as a result of the strong waters, except for 500 meters of dike behind a mangrove forest that had remained untouched. Moreover, many agricultural fields become less fertile due to the flooding of salt water onto the land plots. As such, Mangrove trees were planted over an area 3km-long and 700m-wideout to sea with over 2,000 plants per hectare. The survival rate of the trees since the inception of the project stood at about 80% [15].

References

  1. [1] Panda.org. http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/oceans/coasts/mangroves/mangrove_importance/
  2. [2] Nuwara Paksha, K. “Leadership Initiatives Of The Sri Lanka Navy For Rehabilitation And Conservation Of Marine Environments Including, Mangroves Of Sri Lanka” Proceeding of the International Symposium on Mangrove Ecosystems 2018 of Seacology-Sudeesa Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Program
  3. [3] American Musiem of Natural History. Retrieved from https://www.amnh.org/explore/videos/biodiversity/mangroves-the-roots-of-the-sea/what-s-a-mangrove-and-how-does-it-work
  4. [4] American Musiem of Natural History. Retrieved from https://www.amnh.org/explore/videos/biodiversity/mangroves-the-roots-of-the-sea/what-s-a-mangrove-and-how-does-it-work
  5. [5] Conservation.org. Retrieved from https://www.conservation.org/stories/Pages/11-Facts-You-Need-to-Know-About-Mangroves.aspx
  6. [6] Worldatlas.com. Retrieved from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-a-mangrove-habitat.html
  7. [7] R. Lewis III ,Roy. “Mangrove Restoration - Costs and Benefits of Successful Ecological Restoration.” Proceedings of the Mangrove Valuation Workshop, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, 4- 8 April, 2001. Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden.
  8. [8] R.Lewis III. “Ecological engineering for successful management and restoration of mangrove forests.” Ecological Engineering 24 (2005) 403–418 http://www.royrlewis3.com/docs/Ecol_Eng_Mangrove_Rest_Lewis_2005.pdf
  9. [9] Mumby, Peter et al. “Mangroves enhance the coral reef fish in the Caribbean.” Nature. (2004). 427. 533-6. 10.1038/nature02286.
  10. [10] Panda.org. Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/oceans/coasts/mangroves/mangrove_ecosystems/
  11. [11] Austrialian Government. Retrieved from https://www.aims.gov.au/docs/projectnet/mangroves-uses.html
  12. [12] M. Allison, Aaron. “Mangrove Restoration: Do We Know Enough?” Reforestation Ecology. Vol 8. No3. Pp 219 - 229
  13. [13] Lewis III, Roy. “Ecological engineering for successful management and restoration of mangrove forests.” Ecological Engineering 24 (2005) 403–418http://www.royrlewis3.com/docs/Ecol_Eng_Mangrove_Rest_Lewis_2005.pdf
  14. [14] Ecoviva.org. retrived from https://ecoviva.org/7-reasons-mangroves-matter/
  15. [15] Asiapacificadapt.net. Retrieved from http://www.asiapacificadapt.net/adaptation-practices/community-based-mangrove-reforestation-and-management-project