Discover the Many Benefits of Mangroves
Many people in the coastal areas do not realize the importance of vegetation around them. Take for example the mangroves of the tropical areas. Mangroves are wonderful works of nature that provide ecological services vital to human survival.
Do you hear or remember what happened in Phuket, Thailand way back in 2004? A tsunami caused unimaginable disaster. Lots of properties and lives were lost in such a low probability but high impact hazard of nature.
And did you know that partly the reason for lots of damages was attributed to lack of mangroves to weather the impacts of the surging waters? Had there been mangroves in front of the beaches, these would have served to break the incoming waters and possibly reduced the ensuing damage.
But this is just one of the benefits that mangroves provide.
What are mangroves?
The mangroves are those trees commonly growing along the beaches in the tropical areas. These are of various kinds or species and range in sizes and features. Common among those mangroves that grow near the beaches and are able to withstand high salt conditions are of the species Rhizophora. These mangroves have sturdy, branching stilt roots that can thrive even in muddy areas (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. The stilt roots of Rhizophora spp.
Notable in areas grown with large, mature mangrove trees are their breathing roots or pneumatophores (Fig. 3). These are aerial roots that enable mangroves to breathe air in waterlogged habitat along the fringes of the coast.
Fig. 3. The breathing roots of mangroves.
What are the benefits to be gained from mangroves?
Source of cheap fuel. Mangroves serve a lot of purposes to man. In the past, mangroves are commonly used by the rural folks in making charcoal as the wood burns quite well compared to other kinds of trees. This is a direct benefit that could be gained from these trees.
But charcoal making by many rural folks led to deforestation of the coastal zone. Although beneficial to man, it is not sustainable. Cutting those trees will take years to replenish.
Buffer against storms. There are other indirect benefits that could be gained from mangroves. These plants serve as buffer against storms. Mangroves growing together serve as a natural barrier to surging waters or strong winds. This prevents any strong impact that may arise from the sea such as tidal waves or tsunami.
Habitat of various kinds of organisms. Many marine organisms like crabs find refuge among the roots of the mangroves, shells attach themselves on the stems or leaves, two-colored ants fold the leaves together to house their larvae (Figure 4), mangrove snakes occupy the thick foliage awaiting prey and even birds perch on twigs and branches on the canopy at night to roost.
Fig. 4. Two-colored ants with their larva hidden between folded mangrove leaves.
Mangroves add beauty to the landscape. Anything green soothes the eye. Mangroves just do that as it adds appeal to an otherwise boring landscape without the greens.
Mangroves sequester carbon. Plants need carbon dioxide to survive. As part of photosynthesis, carbon is removed from the atmosphere and fixed as plant biomass. Mangroves do these things, thus help remove too much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
There are other things mangroves can do that can be beneficial to man. For this reason, it is just fitting and proper that we help conserve this important resource.
All pictures © by the author.
©2011 October 28 Patrick A. Regoniel Discover the Many Benefits of Mangroves