10 facts about Mangroves
Saturday 1st February 2020
These unique trees lead tough lives — but we're all the better for it.
What are mangroves? Mangroves are tropical trees that thrive in conditions most timber could never tolerate — salty, coastal waters, and the interminable ebb and flow of the tide. With the ability to store vast amounts of carbon, mangrove forests are key weapons in the fight against climate change, but they are under threat worldwide. By protecting mangroves, we can help protect the future of our planet.
- Mangroves can be a bit salty - Mangroves are the only species of trees in the world that can tolerate saltwater. Their strategy for dealing with otherwise toxic levels of salt? Excrete it through their waxy leaves.
- Mangroves come in a variety of sizes - Though estimates vary, there are at least 50 — and maybe up to 110 — mangrove species, ranging in height from 2 to 10 meters, but all species feature oblong or oval-shaped leaves and share an affinity for brackish habitats.
- Fish flock to mangroves - Mangroves, specifically the underwater habitat their roots provide, offer critical nursing environments for juveniles of thousands of fish species, from 1-inch gobies to 10-foot sharks.
- Mangroves live on the edge - Mangrove forests can be found on the saltwater coasts of 118 tropical and subtropical countries, totalling more than 137,000 square kilometers (85,000 square miles) — roughly the size of Greece or Arkansas.
- Indonesia tops the worldwide list - The largest amount of mangrove coverage can be found in Indonesia, where mangrove trees cover some 23,000 square kilometers (about 14,000 square miles) — that's more than twice the size of Jamaica or roughly the size of Vermont.
- Mangroves have (carbon) hoarding issues - Blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, sea grasses and salt marshes) can be up to 10 times more efficient than terrestrial ecosystems at absorbing and storing carbon long term, making them a critical solution in the fight against climate change.
- Mangroves can help keep people safe - Mangrove forests — specifically, their thick, impenetrable roots — are vital to shoreline communities as natural buffers against storm surges, an increasing threat in a changing global climate with rising sea levels.
- There's trouble in Myanmar - Mangroves are under threat nearly everywhere, but the problem is particularly acute in Myanmar, where the rate of deforestation is four times the global average.
- Shrimping is a jumbo problem - In Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia, mangroves are often cut down to make room for temporary shrimp pens. But once the pens have been removed, the accumulated biowaste renders the water too toxic for most forms of life.
- It's better to revitalize than replant - Mangroves' dense root systems inhibit the flow of tidal water and encourage the deposition of nutrient-rich sediments. But once lost, mangroves are very difficult to replant due to shifts in the very sediments the roots helped keep in place.