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.
Now that you’ve seen the work that MAP is doing all over the world, you’re probably wondering ‘What can I do to save the mangroves?’ It may seem like a far-away problem, but your support is needed now! MAP depends on volunteer support and your involvement in our projects. Here are some suggested ways for you to get involved in the works of Mangrove Action Project.
Mangrove forests are naturally resilient, having withstood severe storms and changing tides for many millenia. But until recently, mangrove forests had been classified by many governments and industries alike as “wastelands,” or useless swamps. This mistaken view has made it easier to exploit mangrove forests as cheap and unprotected sources of land and water.
- Shrimp Aquaculture
- Charcoal Production and Logging
- Oil Exploration and Extraction
- Urbanization and Urban Expansion
- Ports and Roads
- Fisheries Declines
- Threats to Migratory Bird Species
- Degradation of Clean Water Supplies
- Salinization of Coastal Soils
- Erosion and Land Subsidence
- Release of Carbon Dioxide into the Atmosphere
Today, less than half the world’s original mangrove forest cover remains. As much as 50% percent of mangrove destruction in recent years has been due to clear cutting for shrimp farms.
- Unregulated and unsustainable developments
- Lack of clear understanding and recognition of the importance of mangroves
- Lack of law enforcement and monitoring to protect from illegal encroachment
Mangrove forests are among the most threatened habitats in the world. They may be disappearing more quickly than inland tropical rainforests, and so far, with little public notice.
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