Mangrove forests are complex coastal ecologies that serve important functions in tropical zones. Mangrove trees can survive in much saltier water than most other trees, which allows them to create saltwater zones that are sheltered from storms.
Mangrove forests are home to numerous ocean creatures, such as manatees, and provide a safe haven for young crabs and other invertebrates to mature. Leaves and other forest detritus sink to the bottom of the water and provide an important source of nutrients for creatures living in the forests. In Belize alone, some 500 bird species have been found to live in mangrove forests. They also help to manage salt levels in surround soil and freshwater.
Unfortunately, mangrove forests are in danger all over the world. Because our understanding of the ecological importance of such forests is relatively recent, they have long been classified as wastelands by many countries. This makes them easier to exploit for lumber, or to overfish. Mangrove forests are being cut down, often for shrimp farms, which can result in the salinization of coastal soils and the degradation of water supplies. Their destruction also damages numerous local, otherwise sustainable economies.
Luckily, there is plenty that we can do to try and reverse this damage and save mangrove forests. Mangrove Action Project is a grassroots, non-profit organization that works to aid in mangrove conservation. They work together with local organizations and NGOs in order to help amplify the voices of those most affected by the loss of mangrove forests. They advocate for local fishermen and help to connect ecology and important human rights issues, and bring that message to the widest audience possible.
If you’re interested in learning more about mangrove forests, the dangers they face, and how you can help them, check out the Mangrove Action Project’s website and get involved.