Although once thought of as useless wastelands, careful study and research has revealed that mangroves are among the most important ecosystems on this planet. Valued for anchoring coastal ecosystems as well as providing economic and ecosystem services to humans, mangrove forests are true treasures. The complexities of these systems are enormous, and there is still much to learn. Mangrove forests are highly interconnected within the ecosystem itself, but they also make up a transitional zone between land and ocean, connecting and supporting both. It is no surprise that mangroves are called “roots of the sea.”
Where in the world do
These complex forests are found between the latitudes of 32º N and 38º S, along the tropical and subtropical coasts of Africa, Australia, Asia, and the Americas.
The largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world is found in the Sundarbans (NASA image, left), on the edge of the Bay of Bengal, stretching from SW Bangladesh to SE India.
The rainforests by the sea
Mangrove forests literally live in two worlds at once. Growing in the intertidal areas and estuary mouths between land and sea, mangroves are comprised of salt-tolerant tree and other plant species from a range of plant families. They thrive in intertidal zones of sheltered tropical shores, islands, and estuaries.
Mangroves have specially adapted aerial and salt-filtering roots and salt-excreting leaves which enable them to occupy the saline wetlands where other plant life cannot survive.