There is no denying that mangrove forests are breathtaking. Tropical coasts are speckled with these large, mysterious trees peeking out from the thick watery marshes. But besides their obvious beauty, mangroves do so much more. Sadly, they are being destroyed at an alarming rate to build shrimp farms, housing developments, roads, port facilities, golf courses and hotels. While we have done little to help the previously flourishing trees, their lives are essential to the plants and animals in tropical climates and even to our own safety. Below is a list of 5 reasons why you should care about mangrove forests and the benefits of preserving them.
- Natural Barriers
Mangrove forests stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storms, currents and even hurricanes. After the 2004 tsunami, researchers proved that in areas where mangrove forests were intact the coast received less damage. Because the forests served as natural breakwaters, dispelling the energy of the waves, the plants were attributed for reducing property damage and possibly saving lives.
- Improved Water Quality
Jin Eong Ong, a retired professor of marine and coastal studies, has spent the last 25 years of his life studying the mangrove and has concluded that their elimination from their tropical environments make drastic dents in the water quality of the surrounding coast. By studying carbon production in the plants, he and his team concluded that mangroves have the highest net productivity of carbon of any natural ecosystem. This process makes their demolition extremely harmful to surrounding life.
- Shelter and Refuse for Wildlife
The mangrove’s intricate root system also makes these forests attractive to fish and other organisms seeking food and shelter from predators. While birds find home in the canopy of the trees, shellfish cling to their roots, fish hide underwater in their shadow, and rare lizards and tree-climbing crabs wander about.
- A Natural Supermarket
Mangrove forests are all encompassing providers. Those that work in the mangrove forests off the coast of Bangladesh can reap seafood, fruits, medicines, tea and sugar from harvesting the forest’s many resources. These can be some of the biggest economical producers for coastal workers.
- Biological Diversity
While mangroves live in harsh circumstances-high salt levels, sweltering heat and thick mud—that would kill most ordinary plants in a day, mangroves thrive and produce some of the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems in the world.
The mangrove is a natural wonder of the world we take for granted every day on the coast. Their preservation is important to the lives of plants, animals and even ourselves.
Visit our friends at the Mangrove Action Project to learn more about what you can do to help preserve mangrove forests.