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Mangrove day 2014

Is it a tree... Is it seaweed....no, it is a Mangrove! The plant growing on tropical coasts has puzzled generations of botanists for being the only tree able to survive in salt water. On Saturday 26th July the world will celebrate Mangrove Action Day to promote the protection of this tree, home to thousands of species and natural shield for coastal communities.

Image courtsy of Steve Cornish

The Mangrove Day

To understand the meaning of the Action day we need to get back to 1998, when some Ecuadorian communities launched a big campaign to stop Mangroves’ deforestation caused by shrimp farms’ expansions. Their protest gained the support of organizations all over the world. On the 26 of July, the communities organised a concerted action to replant mangrove in the soils used by shrimps’ farms industries. The aim was - and is still – to reverse the loss of mangrove forests and protect the rights of coastal communities to sustainably management. Mangroves are precious ecosystem as well as important sources of food and wood for local populations.  

Image courtesy of Karen Blaha

The Scuba-Diving plant

Mangrove trees grow on tropical coasts sandy soils and get all nutriments needed from salted water. Their roots can filter most of the salt by stocking it in older leaves that the plant then sheds. The part of the forest close to the shore is flooded twice a day by the tide. Like scuba-divers, Mangroves have their own snorkels. Their roots have tiny pores that catch air as blowholes, providing a reservoir of oxygen for the duration of their diving sessions. This peculiar breathing system helps also in avoiding suffocation in the oxygen-poor mud of shores. To cope with these hostile living conditions, Mangroves have developed a special mechanism to help their offspring survive seawater inundations. Unlikely other plants, seeds are not dropped in the soil: the fruit containing the seeds of their offspring don’t fall away when ripens. So seeds germinate while still on the mother tree which breed them till they are grown enough to resist sea water. In this case the saying “the apple doesn't fall far from the tree” cannot be applied: once matured, the newborn plants are dropped into the water to be transported to great distances.

Image courtesy of Brian Jeffery Beggerly

Why are Mangroves so important?

Mangroves are vibrant condominiums of biodiversity. In area where roots are permanently submerged, they are shelters for barnacles, oysters, sponges, fish and crustaceans, while logs and foliages host birds, reptiles, insects and monkeys. Some animal species evolved in this unique habitat, like the mangrove crab whose fate intertwined with these tropical forests.  Housing animals, they are natural barriers against the soil erosion. On one hand, they prevent sand from being washed away by sea tides; on the other, they regenerate the soil by penetrating and oxygenating it. Guards of shores, animals and humans: Mangroves are natural barriers against inundations caused by cyclones and typhoons. According to some researchers, mangroves forests help in reducing natural disaster’s effects and they helped in slowing down the 2004 Indonesia deadly tsunami’s speed in some coastal areas.    

By Cristina Nanni

Are you interested in biodiversity and exploring the tropical forest?  Why not try Frontier's wide range of beach, forest and diving projects.

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