Field of Science

Mangroves - very important forests

A news article from Treehugger reminded TPP that mangroves are a very special type of forest, and like forests everywhere, deforestation threatens them.  The "Republic of Change" is raising money to restore mangroves in the area of Madagascar, a place where deforestation of all sorts has been brutal and taken a toll on biological diversity. There are several reasons why this is a good idea. First, mangrove forests are very carbon rich, that is they are big biological reservoirs for carbon which they get from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Second, mangroves grow at the interface between ocean and land where they act as buffers against storms and tsunamis. Third, they are the nurseries and primary producers that drive coastal fisheries throughout the tropics and subtropics. Yet, most people just see a tangle of stems, roots, and mud, something standing in the way of human coastal development. TPP has heard coastal development enthusiasts call mangroves "scrub", "waste areas" and "junk vegetation". In what can only be regarded as extremely wrong headed thinking, mangroves in some areas have and are being destroyed to farm shrimp while quite ignoring the role mangroves have in supporting coastal fisheries, a classic robbing ecologically rich peter to pay paul poorly.  To learn more about mangroves here's an old internet photo essay about mangroves that may be hard to get to without this link (and even then the link to the last 2 photos has been broken. Thanks IT!). This is one type of forest that even relatively few botanists have wandered through. Some of the photos show a mangrove restoration project southwest of Bangkok along the coast where mangrove destruction has taken place for shrimp farming. The mangrove image is courtesy of Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Creative Commons.

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