Also unlike their terrestrial counterparts, mangrove forest fires are seldom a danger, and hence the carbon capture is much more secure in the long-term. Mangrove trees are being cut back for firewood, coastal developments, and to make way for shrimp farming, or falling victim to pollution from inland sources such as discarded plastics. But there is hope for the mangroves. People from across the Commonwealth give their views on the state of ocean health and the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
Site search. Fast facts There are 80 different species of mangrove tree. Their roots form a dense tangle allowing them to survive the daily movement of tidal water as well as storms. Mangroves store more carbon than terrestrial forests, and for longer. People cut down Mangroves for better ocean views, hotels, artificial beaches, and shrimp farms - and goats like to eat them too! The eggs are stored in an air-filled compartment within the den and the father must continually gulp air from the surface and then release it in the compartment to replenish the oxygen.
In a city of underground burrows, territoriality is the rule of life for fiddler crabs. In males, one claw is noticeably bigger than the other.
They flaunt the enlarged claw to not only attract females but to intimidate male rivals. If intimidation is unsuccessful , a fight may ensue where pushing, gripping, and flipping are all fair game.
Sometimes the crabs chase male competitors all the way back to their burrows. Besides mating, the burrows are also shelters from flooding, harsh temperatures, and predators. The burrowing mud lobsters are industrious workers that play an important role in many mangrove forests in the Indo-Pacific Region. Mud lobsters excavate underground burrows that extend down to two meters deep.
Using their claws, they move the mud onto mounds aboveground, in some cases up to three meters tall. The excavated mud includes nutrients from decaying matter from deep underground, and the burrows aerate the soil which, in turn, increases water drainage. The mounds are also excellent hideouts and homes for other creatures like snakes.
7 Reasons Mangroves Matter
Initially toxic from the deep, acidic soil coming into contact with the air, the mounds eventually lose their acidity and become excellent places for little mangroves, including several species of the mangrove fern Acrostichum , to grow. But, a bony ridge between its eyes gives it that appearance.
Even without glasses, females of this species keep a sharp eye out for their young.
They raise the young in nurseries, taking turns caring for their own as well as others' offspring and protecting them fiercely. The mangrove forests from the tip of Florida to the Carribean are home to another marine reptile, the American crocodile, a species once endangered but now, thanks to conservation efforts, is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. And in Australia, the mangrove forests are renowned for the massive saltwater crocodile, a reptile that can reach up to 17 feet!
They also provide us with an ample supple of food, like seafood, fruit, medicines, fiber, and wood. They stabilize shores by trapping sediments and building land. They improve water quality by filtering runoff and polluted waters. They protect the climate by absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Mangrove forests save lives. When cyclonic storms like typhoons and hurricanes make landfall, they create a strong storm surge that can cause serious flooding.
Mangroves naturally absorb influxes of water on a daily basis and are able to cope with the extra flooding during a storm. But the recent mangrove deforestation to make way for development and shrimp farms has created hazardous conditions for people living close to shore. In the s, coastal villages in the Indo-Pacific had an average of 5 miles of mangrove forest between themselves and the ocean. The same study also found that as mangrove width decreased, the death toll from coastal storms increased. In , a powerful cyclonic storm made landfall in an area of Bangladesh where the mangroves had been stripped away.
The damage caused by the tsunami spurred impacted countries to rethink mangrove importance and many restoration projects are working to rebuild lost forests.
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Mangroves have a global estimated worth of 1, billion dollars. The wood is frequently used to build stilt houses, furniture, fences, bridges, fishing poles and traps, canoes, rafts, and boats. Charcoal from mangroves is highly prized in Japan. Products from mangroves are also used in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, and insecticides.
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Medicinal properties from mangroves include relieving pain, decreasing inflammation, treating diabetes, acting as an antitumor drug, ridding the body of parasites, as an antiseptic, and many, many more. Rich in tannins—compounds that are notable for their influence on the taste of red wine—mangrove bark is used in the tanning of animal skins to make leather. People who live in mangrove forests often rely on fishing to make a living.
A study found the Mantang mangrove forest in West Malaysia supports fisheries worth million dollars per year. And in the Gulf of California in Mexico, mangroves provide habitat for about 32 percent of the local fishery landings, an equivalent of 15, dollars per acre. Honey can be a sweet luxury, but for many it is a way of life. Roughly , local villagers brave tiger attacks, crocodiles, python bites, pirate raids, and bee stings so severe in number that they can cause fever and instant vomiting, all for the promise of a little liquid gold.
In India alone an average of 25 people a year are attacked by tigers, however, attacks often go unreported so the true number may be higher. Many people bear scars from tiger encounters. But without alternative means to make a living, year after year the honey hunters return to the forest. Although there are a few places where mangrove cover appears to be increasing, between and the world lost roughly 35 to 97 square miles of mangrove forest per year.
The biggest threat to mangroves is the emergence of shrimp farms, which have caused at least 35 percent of the overall loss of mangrove forests. The rise of shrimp farming is a response to the increasing appetite for shrimp in the United States, Europe, Japan and China in recent decades.
In , the United States imported over 1. Despite the appeal of quick financial gain, shrimp farming has hidden, long-term costs. Also, disease is a constant concern and can render entire ponds completely worthless. Initially, governments were ill-equipped to regulate this type of farming, and farmers were unaware of the destruction they were causing. But now some countries and individual farmers are taking action and changing their practices.
Thailand , the top shrimp exporter for much of the early s, now has stricter regulations that restrict new farms from encroaching on mangroves. Despite recent efforts to make shrimp farming sustainable, it is still a destructive enterprise that is threatening the existence of mangroves around the world. As global temperatures rise so will sea level. During past changes in sea level, mangroves were able to move further inland, but in many places human development is now a barrier that limits how far a mangrove forest can migrate.
Areas of the Sundarban mangrove forest have experienced unusually high tides and as a result high levels of erosion. A study found that 71 percent of the forest is experiencing feet meters of coastline retreat per year, almost the length of two football fields. In , two nearby archipelagos were washed away, an illustration that the threat of the entire forest vanishing beneath the ocean is a real concern. As for their ability to evolve in the face of a major stressor, like sea level rise, genetic diversity is key for a species to adapt to change. Although mangrove populations have flourished in that last 6, years, a past change in sea level during the retreat of the glaciers roughly 20, years ago, potentially killed a majority of their population.
Mangroves have not recovered from this event , as indicated by a very low levels of genetic variability. This low diversity means that mangroves of a single species are so similar that the genetic makeup of one individual is almost identical to its neighbor. Extensive mangrove diebacks in Australia along the Bay of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory and at Exmouth in Western Australia have been linked to a 14 inch 35 cm drop in sea level, which when coupled with prolonged drought, left mangroves high and dry long enough to cause extensive mangrove death.
The ocean is teeming with plants and animals willing and able to move beyond their native habitats, sometimes with the help of humans. Some of these invasive species are encroaching upon the habitats of mangroves.
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- Harvesting shellfish in the mangroves once provided plenty of food and a good income..
In China, a marsh grass called Spartina alterniflora was introduced in by conservationists trying to decrease coastal erosion. Originally from the Atlantic coast, the grass works well at maintaining banks and tidal flats, but in China, it began to spread uncontrollably and is now taking over the mangrove forests. Invasive animals can also pose a threat to mangrove forests.
An exotic antelope from Asia called the nilgai was released in Texas in the United States in the s as hunting game and is now not only a nuisance for cattle ranchers, but it also eats mangrove leaves. And the addition of rats and feral cats to the Galapagos Islands has caused mangrove finch populations to dramatically decline to a point where they are now listed as critically endangered. Mangroves themselves can also be invasive.
In Florida, conservationists are currently trying to contain an infestation of an Asian mangrove species , Lumnitzera racemose , that spread from a renowned botanical garden in Miami. And in Hawaii, Rhizophora mangle from Florida were introduced by the American Sugar Company in in an effort to maintain erroiding coastlines, and later Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Conocarpus erectus were also introduced. The introduction of mangrove forests on Hawaii has particularly impacted native birds that are unable to roost in the mangroves and are preyed upon by nonnative rats and mongooses that hide in the mangrove roots.
Efforts to remove the invasive mangroves began in the s and are still ongoing. People attempt to restore mangroves all around the world. In most cases, they approach mangrove restoration as if they were planting a forest on land. Fortunately, one method for mangrove restoration proves to be more successful than other attempts.