Tree Talk| 4 min read

Mangrove Must-knows

We love every kind of tree – each one is important in its own way.

We love every kind of tree – each one is important in its own way. But we’ve planted millions of mangrove trees because they’re one of the most important types of trees in the world. Mangroves truly are a super tree, the effects of which are incredibly far-reaching. While in North America we don’t get to see many of the benefits (save for Florida and the West Indies), much of the rest of the world depends on them for an entire rolodex of reasons. tentree is busy planting mangroves in Africa, providing environmental stability and both seasonal and full-time employment for local workers. Below are the must-knows when it comes to mangroves.

Mangroves can live in saltwater

Mangroves are generally found growing along coastlines. With every high tide, the stilt roots of mangroves are entirely submerged in saltwater. They use these roots to breathe, particularly when growing in anaerobic sediments (highly organic sediment formed in the absence or near absence of oxygen in water that is rich in hydrogen sulfide). Mangroves are so adept at desalinating the water they drink that they can remove up to 99% of it, making them perfectly suitable for life in brackish water. Mangrove trees are, in fact, the only species of tree in the world that are able to deal with saltwater. For any other tree, the salt content of the ocean would be toxic.

Mangroves aren’t picky about soil

Mangrove trees are able to grow in a number of different types of soil. Many species prefer mud, but they can grow in coral rock, peat, and sand as well.

Mangroves are nature’s storm barriers

Because they put down roots along coastlines, mangroves act as a natural storm barrier and are incredibly important when it comes to land protection during natural disasters. They stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion, as well as serve as storm buffers by reducing damage done by waves and wind in shallow shoreline areas during hurricanes/cyclones and tsunamis. A study released in the journal Science showed that areas with dense mangrove cover were drastically less affected by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami than areas without tree vegetation along the shoreline. The study confirms that 30 trees per 100 square meters can reduce the maximum flow of a tsunami by more than 90%.

Mangroves may absorb more carbon pollution than any type of tree

According to one study conducted in 2016, mangrove trees are one of the best trees in the world for sequestering carbon dioxide, a climate-altering greenhouse gas. Sadly, it’s believed that 122 million tons of carbon was released due to mangrove losses around the world.

Mangroves provide important habitat

There are thousands of fish species that rely on mangroves around the world for habitat. Many villagers who live near coastlines rely on these mangroves for fishing.  The forests also act as breeding grounds for shrimp, crabs, and shellfish, and as nesting spots for monkeys, fishing cats, lizards, sea turtles, and crocodiles (just to name a few). These animals are just as beneficial to the habitat as the trees themselves are. For example, mangrove crabs actively take fallen leaves into the burrows and chambers within the swath of roots. This resulting mulch is quickly colonized by bacteria and consumed by other creatures in the area, releasing the nutrients back into the habitat and enhancing the forest.

Mangroves can be found all over the world

Mangrove trees can be found in 118 countries and territories on five continents across the planet. In the year 2000, they encompassed a total area of 137,760 km², comparable to the size of Arkansas. Asia is home to the largest portion of mangroves in the world, that being 42%. The majority of these trees are found in Southeast Asia. In some places like the United States, there are laws in place that protect mangrove trees from being destroyed. If a developer does harm a mangrove forest in the process of building new structures, they are required by law to plant a new mangrove forest to replace it.

There are 110 species of mangrove tree

The term mangrove can refer to one of three things: an entire habitat and plant assemblage, trees and shrubs within a mangrove swamp, or trees within the specific mangrove plant genus, Rhizophora. Broadly speaking, there are nearly 110 species that are considered to be “mangroves”, although much fewer are actually members of the mangrove plant genus, known as “true mangroves”. Depending on the species, mangroves can grow to be small shrubs or 40-foot trees!

Mangroves have many uses

There’s a lot more to this tree than meets the eye. Besides the environmental impact they can have, mangrove trees have a lot more to offer. In Southeast Asia, it’s used as charcoal wood, due to its high calorific value. The sap is used by East Africans and Polynesians to make black dye. Leaves are used as livestock fodder, tea, and tobacco. As well, it is a source of food, providing honey, vinegar, salt and cooking oil, as well as alcohol and wine. Mangroves also have a long history of medicinal use, and have been known to clear up skin infections (even leprosy!), as well act as a remedy for fever, dysentery, asthma, kidney stones, and malaria (just to name a few).

Mangroves are threatened by sand mining

Sand mining is the most common type of mineral mining in the world. This sand is often mined from developing countries’ coastlines and sent to the developed world for products like concrete and asphalt. Sand mining is environmentally devastating and often destroys mangroves.

Mangroves are one of the most consequential ecosystems

Mangroves create among the most important ecosystems in the world. Taken together, they help keep the climate stable, coastlines secure, provide food for fish, birds, and humans alike, create vital habitat for various species, and prevent damage from storm surges.

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