Mangrove forests are tremendously essential, productive, and biodiverse ecosystems located in the coastal intertidal zones of our planet’s tropical and subtropical latitudes.
Mangrove trees are a unique type of small, woody tree - or shrub. There are about 80 known mangrove species. One remarkable thing about them is that they have adapted to the challenging conditions they grow and live in: warm, wet weather, frequent flooding and other extreme events, as well as the excessively saline, oxygen-deficient soils their roots are instilled in.
Moreover, not only do they benefit nature, but also sustain our lives as they grant us services that we highly rely on:
On one hand, they encompass a large range of species, a lot of which are unique to these ecosystems. In addition, for some species, mangrove trees are their primary habitat, nursery habitat, breeding ground, or shelter.
For others, they are a major source of food and nutrients, which plays a crucial role in keeping food webs stable and productive.
On the other hand, people living near mangrove forests are the ones that benefit most directly from these ecosystems, because they depend on their resources to meet their basic needs: fish (as income and/ or food source), fuel, wood, and more. Without them, these communities wouldn’t be able to survive there.
Mangrove trees also act as a natural defense, protecting the coast from erosion, flooding, waves, etc. as well as major natural disasters, such as tsunamis and hurricanes.
Last but not least, they are a key natural weapon against climate change. One main reason for this is that they are prominent carbon sinks – meaning they store carbon - which helps mitigate global warming.
But unfortunately, they are under serious threat, and if our destructive human actions - such as clear-cutting, pollution, overfishing and harvesting - keep going, especially at their current rapid rate, mangrove ecosystems will continue facing increasingly devastating consequences. These, in turn, will negatively affect us.
Therefore, protecting and properly managing them is a must. Current efforts and initiatives aren’t enough though, especially when it comes to regulations and policies. How bad will this issue have to get before we realize its seriousness and the importance of taking action?