Mangrove forests are an ecosystem vital to the survival of both humans and marine species. They provide a habitat for thousands of fish and crustaceans and support many coastal communities around the world. And just like our tropical rainforests and coral reefs, mangroves forests help us to survive in more ways than many of us realise.
Mangroves are trees and shrubs that can be found in the muddy soils of tropical coastlines, and are one of very few plant species that have successfully adapted to living in saltwater, allowing them to thrive in conditions that most plants would normally find inhospitable.
While some mangrove species have adapted to actively remove salt from their tissue, others have developed the ability to block the salt from entering their tissue in the first place. This has led scientists to categorise mangroves as either secretors, or non-secretors.
Despite their ability to survive in salty waters, different species of mangroves can be found across a range of environments varying from open sea water to drier, more sheltered areas, and river banks further inland where there is a lower salt concentration.
However one requirement all mangroves species have in common, is the need for warmer temperatures. Mangroves are therefore usually found in areas between latitudes of 25 degrees north and 25 degrees south. Indonesia, Brazil, Australia, India, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, are all popular breeding grounds for mangroves, thanks to their tropical climates and sheltered coastlines.
– There are around 80 different species of mangrove trees
– Mangroves can grow in soils roughly two times the salinity of ocean water
– Certain mangrove species can grow to be up to 131 feet (40 meters) tall
– Globally, mangrove forests cover around 53,000 and 77,000 square miles (138,000 and 200,000 square km)
1. They Provide A Habitat For Marine Life
Acting as a nursery for thousands of marine species, the mangrove forests help to support thousands of marine species, including fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusks. And it’s not just marine species living among the mangroves – hundreds of species of birds use the mangrove forests as nesting and migratory sites.
2. A Food Source For Coastal Communities
The forests also play a vital role for coastal communities, acting as a food source that has become key to the livelihood of the local people. One of the largest mangrove forests, The Sundarban delta, covers around 10,000 sq km across India and Bangladesh. It’s home to 39 species of mangroves, and helps to sustain the 4.5 million people living in the region.
3. Carbon Storage Abilities
Aside from providing food and a habitat for living creatures, mangroves have many other incredible capabilities, including their ability to store carbon in their roots and the surrounding soil, helping to significantly reduce the rate of global heating. These ‘blue-carbon’ ecosystems are 5x more effective at sequestering carbon than a terrestrial rainforest.
4. Coastal Protection
With their vast web of tangled roots, mangroves are highly effective at catching sediment, thus creating a natural barrier for dissipating wave energy and in turn protecting the surrounding coastlines from erosion and flooding. This useful filtering ability also helps to protect the neighbouring coral reefs, which would otherwise risk getting smothered by the sediment.
Sadly, over the past 40 years we have lost over 35% of the world’s mangroves, with certain countries including Indonesia, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam reaching a loss of 50%, and in the Americas, mangroves are declining faster than tropical rainforests.
This is largely a result of clearing, to make room for agricultural land, human settlements, infrastructure, palm oil production and tourist developments. The wood from mangrove forests is also highly sought after for firewood, construction and high demand has resulted in serious overharvesting.
Overfishing is also a large problem, which is causing an ecological imbalance within the food chain. Meanwhile, pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, and various other man-made chemicals which run off farmland and into the rivers, are having even more disastrous impacts for the inhabiting wildlife.
SeaTrees, a program of non-profit Sustainable Surf, is making it easy for brands and individuals to support the restoration and protection of blue-carbon coastal ecosystems. SeaTrees sources some of the best restoration projects available and promotes those projects to a global community of ocean lovers all around the world. Their short term goal is to plant 1 million sea trees, and by working with local communities they have already planted over 115 thousand.
Located in the center of the Coral Triangle, Biak Island boasts some of the highest biodiversity levels on the planet, but due to a lack of awareness and exploitation of resources, 75% of the mangrove forests have been lost to deforestation.
With the help of the local community, SeaTrees have started a successful restoration project to replant and protect 1,000 hectares of damaged mangrove forest.
By employing local residents, the project has helped provide key job opportunities, enabling people to provide food, healthcare and education for their families. The restored mangrove forests also provide key support to the local marine ecosystem and significantly reduce CO2 levels, with each mangrove tree storing approximately 308kg of CO2 during its lifetime.
Here are 3 ways you can protect mangrove forests for the planet and future generations.
Each mangrove planted will:
– Provide employment for two villages on Biak Island, Indonesia
– Help protect Biak Island from storm-surges and sea-level rise
– Create a habitat for threatened species
– Sequester CO2 and help reduce global heating
With the current social distancing measures, planning a fundraising may not be easy – but it’s certainly still possible! Run your own half/full marathon and get your friends and family to sponsor you.
Or why not organise a virtual bingo night on Skype or House Party and put the proceeds towards a SeaTrees restoration project?
There’s so many fun ways to raise money, and with SeaTrees 100% of your proceeds help protect and restore coastal ecosystems.
Mangrove forests are 5x more effective at storing carbon than tropical rain forests and without them, CO2 levels and global heating will continue to rise. Fast.
Help educate others by sharing this blog with your friends, family and the rest of the world.