Bringing Back the “Groove” in Mangroves
Let’s start from the beginning. What exactly are mangroves? No, they’ve got nothing to do with a man’s facial hair. :P
Mangroves are extraordinary ecosystems, located at the interface of land and sea in tropical wetland regions of some estuaries and marine shorelines. The vegetation that grows in these ecosystems are adapted to tolerate high levels of salt, low oxygen levels and harsh coastal conditions. Since they spend a lot of time partially inundated in seawater, they have evolved root-like structures which protrude above the soil to absorb oxygen directly from the air, much like breathing through a snorkel.
Mangroves: swampy forests inhabited by reptiles of every shape and size and the famous Bengal tigers, don’t garner as much attention and appeal that coral reefs and rainforests enjoy; despite being a beautiful union of the two, in a way. Mangroves, are not only preferred habitat for several species but also act as natural defenses against storm surges, cyclonic events and tsunamis. They’ve recently started gaining some traction in environmental conversations, but there’s so much more to these unique ecosystems than just being coastal barricades.
Good guy: Mangroves
In addition to these unique traits, mangroves also play a major role in the overall wellbeing of their surrounding ecosystems and the communities.
These wetland forests offer quite a rich biodiversity supporting complex communities, where thousands of species thrive and interact. They provide a valuable nursery habitat for fishes and crustaceans (crabs, prawns and shrimps); a food source for monkeys, deer, birds; and an essential source of livelihood for thousands of coastal communities.
Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef is something everyone has probably read or heard about and scientists predict that it will likely worsen due to the effects of climate change. The health of a coral reef is an indicator to the overall health of the ocean. But mangroves, the friendly neighbourhood superheroes that they are, provide a safe shelter for young corals and reef fishes, thus protecting them from bleaching. Studies show that there around 25 times more species of fishes in coral reefs close to mangrove areas, than in areas where mangroves have been cut down.
The dense root systems of mangroves help in stabilising and shaping the coastline by preventing soil erosion and they also act as a wall against hurricanes and cyclones, preventing severe coastal damage.
In addition to being a bio-shield for the coastal biodiversity and communities, mangrove ecosystems are also effective carbon sinks. They help the environment by using vast amounts of global warming causing carbon dioxide and storing them within the soil, leaves, branches, and roots. One hectare of mangrove can store 3,754 tons of carbon which is equivalent to 2,650 cars being taken off the road in one year.
Heading #1: Mangroves and Mankind...
Heading #2: Human Lives Depend on Environmental Rights
Heading #3: 'Conservation' needs to be the conversation of the hour