is estimated that almost half of the world's
mangroves have been destroyed by man, and until recently, were classified by most
governments as "wastelands" or "useless swamps".
Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Mangroves are absolutely essential for healthy coastal
Mangrove forests are made up of diverse, salt-tolerant trees and other plant
species which have adapted to inter-tidal zone of sheltered tropical shores,
"overwash" islands, and estuaries. Mangrove trees have specially adapted aerial
and salt-filtering roots and salt-excreting leaves that
enable them to survive
where other plants cannot and literally live in two worlds at once, acting as
the interface between the land and the sea. The stability mangroves
provide is of immense importance to nearby coral reefs and sea grass beds,
protecting them from silt damage from shoreline erosion which would happen if
they were not present and mangroves also help protect coastlines from storm
damage. A recent study by the World Conservation Union determined that the
presence of mangrove forests made a huge difference in the destruction suffered
by two villages in Sri Lanka as a result of the recent 2005 tsunami disaster.
The village protected by mangroves had only two deaths, while the other village,
which had cleared mangrove forests in the past to build prawn farms and tourist
resorts, saw the death of over 6,000 people.
The mangrove forests of the world are extremely important habitats for a number
of other reasons. They offer refuge and nursery grounds for juvenile fish,
crabs, shrimps and mollusks, and are prime nesting grounds and migratory sites
for hundreds of bird species. A wide variety of organisms utilize mangrove
habitats, including many endangered species. An estimated 75 percent of fish
caught commercially spend some time in the mangroves or are dependent on food
chains which can be traced back to these coastal forests.
Mangroves vary in height according to species and environment,
from little shrubs to giant trees over 40 meters in height.
Estimates of the number of mangrove species range from 54 to 75,
and the greatest diversity of mangroves occurs in Southeast
Asia. Most mangroves live on muddy soils, but they can also grow
on peat, coral rock and sand. If tidal conditions are favorable,
they can also be found far upstream in the upper reaches of
Mangroves occupy 75% of the tropical coastlines in the world, an
estimated 22 million hectares. However, over the past several
decades, the total global area occupied by mangroves, almost
half, has disappeared as a result of a variety of destructive
human activities, including overharvesting, freshwater
diversion, oil spills, herbicide and human waster runoff, and
widespread dredging and clearing for development tourist
resorts. Mangroves quite simply are being devastated by
man and are disappearing at an alarming rate. In comparison,
natural destruction of mangroves is relatively low compared to
widespread human impacts. Mangroves are also commercially
attacked as sources of durable and water resistant wood,
medicine, tea, livestock feed and charcoal production. All of
which however, are destructive also. One of the most damaging of
man's activities towards mangrove forests is the rapidly
expanding shrimp aquaculture. This practice poses a grave threat
to the world's remaining mangroves. Thousands and thousands of
hectares of lush mangrove forests have been destroyed to make
room for artificial shrimp ponds which in addition to mangrove
destruction are sources of intense coastal pollution.
A major solution to this specific type of mangrove destruction
includes a more vigorous regulation of national governments over
the expanding shrimp farming industry in their countries. The
fate of the remaining mangrove forests may now rest in the hands
of the consumers from the wealthy nations that import luxury
shrimp products produced from shrimp grown in coastal farms.
Since a highly profitable and expanding market is the driving
force behind the shrimp industry, a worldwide reduction in
consumer demand for pond-raised shrimp is called for.
Florida's Mangroves -"Walking Trees"
Research institute article.
Assocation Inc. website focusing on Florida's mangroves.
Galapagos Islands Mangroves
Travel guide website guide
to mangroves in the Galapagos Islands
Mangroves of Singapore
Published by the
Singapore Science Center, supported by BP grant
Link Index To Websites About Florida Mangroves
Florida Plant's Online
website. Commercial site with good links to other resources.