Mangroves are trees that grow in coastal salt-water zones located in the topics and sub-tropics. Unlike most other trees, mangroves are salt-tolerant and have adapted to live in harsh coastal conditions, meaning they are able to survive when submerged in water. It’s these unique characteristics that make mangroves truly special and key to a healthy and diverse environment. Here’s 5 reasons why mangroves are so important.
1. Climate Action
As with other species of trees, mangroves absorb and naturally store carbon. But unlike most other types of trees, the way mangroves store this carbon makes them a key player in the fight against climate change. The carbon absorbed over the lifetime of a mangrove tree gets stored in water-logged soil, buried under sediment that builds up on the seafloor. This is known as ‘Blue Carbon’ and it has a critical role in tackling the climate crisis. Pound for pound, blue carbon ecosystems capture around 10 times more carbon than terrestrial forests, such as rainforests. Sadly, over the past few decades we’ve lost a third of these ecosystems, largely as a result of human activity. The disruption of these ecosystems has resulted in this carbon being released back into the atmosphere.
By restoring and protecting mangrove forests, we are able to naturally remove carbon from the atmosphere, whilst supporting surrounding ecosystems. And the potential for this carbon removal is significant. Despite mangroves accounting for less than 2% of marine environments, they are responsible for 10-15% of global carbon burial.
2. Marine Life
It’s estimated that around a third of all marine species rely on mangrove forests at some point during their lives. The tangled roots of mangroves are perfect for sheltering from predators. As well as protection, these roots are also a source of food for young aquatic creatures, making them essential to surrounding ecosystems and fisheries. In fact, roughly 30% of all fish caught in South East Asia will be supported by mangrove forests at some point during the course of their life.
3. Coral Reefs and Seagrass
It’s not just fish that benefit from mangroves. By acting as natural ‘sieves’, mangroves improve the quality of runoff water that flows to seagrass beds and nearby coral reefs. Through this filtration process, they also reduce the acidity of the water. This helps to support healthy coral reefs and prevent bleaching often caused by high water acidity levels.
We’ve already heard about how mangroves support marine life, but they are also crucial to supporting a range of plant and animal species. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, there are over 30 plants and animals listed as “vulnerable” or “critically endangered” that have been associated with mangrove habitats, including hawksbill turtles and the Bengal tiger. In fact, there are 40 bird, 10 reptile, 1 amphibian and 6 mammal species that are only found in mangrove habitats!
As well as serving plants and animals, mangroves also directly benefit many coastal communities. Their roots protect from coastal erosion and reduce the impact of surges during storms which can cause flooding. The protection offered by mangrove forests is so significant that it is estimated they can cut storm related deaths by two thirds, and the overall force of a tsunami by 90%! They truly are “super trees”!
Help us restore the world’s mangrove ecosystems by planting a mangrove tree every week. Each time you walk 5000 steps, 5 days a week, we’ll plant one, for free, on your behalf.