The Importance of Mangroves and the Reasons why they are under Threat Globally
Written By Kimani Wiseman
A trip to the beach, and you would enjoy the golden sunshine, the sounds of Sea Birds flying over the ocean, the exquisite sounds of waves crashing on the shore, a wonderful place where you will find tranquillity to brighten your day, and makes you feel as if you are in paradise, but among us are some very important trees that are grown along the coastline that are overlooked, and are taken for granted, these trees are “Mangroves”.
A Mangrove is a woody tree or shrub that lives along sheltered coastlines within the tropic or subtropical latitudes. The word Mangrove is derived from the Portuguese word, mangue which means “tree,” and the English word “grove,” which is used for trees and shrubs.
Mangroves are very important trees in our ecosystem because: they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which would alleviate “global warming and climate change”. According to a BBC news report on January 8th 2019, the report stated that “the USA carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4% in 2018, and also the USA is the world’s second largest emitter of green house gases”.
Environmental Scientists have discovered that keeping more Mangroves intact, allowed them to avoid the release of around 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to removing 344,000 cars from the road each year.
Mangroves can mitigate against damage caused by Hurricanes and Storms. Mangrove forests reduces the height of storm surges and flooding by absorbing wave energy through their dense roots and stems.
When the tsunami struck India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu on December 26th 2004, areas in Pichavaram and Muthupet with dense Mangroves suffered fewer human casualties and less damage to property, compared to areas without Mangroves.
Mangroves also prevent coastal erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled root systems. They maintain water quality and clarity by filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land, thus ensuring our coral reefs are healthier. They are also a habitat for Shrimps, Crustaceans, Mollusks, Fishes, and Birds.
Humans are the perpetrators why Mangroves are under threat. Fifty percent of the world’s Mangroves have already disappeared in the past half century. Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Panama, recorded the largest losses of Mangroves during the 1980s.
A total of one million hectares were lost in these five countries. Mangrove Forests have been seen as unproductive and smelly, and are cleared to make room for Agricultural land, Human settlements, Harbours, Industrial areas, and Tourism sites.
Mangrove wood is resistant to rot and insects, making it extremely valuable, hence the reason why it is commercially harvested for Pulp, Wood chip, and Charcoal production. The building of Dams and Irrigation reduces the amount of water reaching Mangrove Forests, which changes the salinity level of water in the forest, if salinity becomes too high, the mangroves cannot survive.
The next time you visit the beach and you spot a Mangrove Forest, instead of “over exploiting” them, appreciate the good job that they are doing in our ecosystem.
Written By Kimani Wiseman