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Mangrove forests: white, black or red alert?

August 05, 2008

Mangrove forests: white, black or red alert?

Mangroves are natural filters. They keep sediment and pollutants from neighboring areas trapping them in their webs of roots.

STRI's Galeta Marine Laboratory is surrounded by Laguncularia racemosa (white mangrove), Avicenia germinans (black mangrove) and Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove), shown in this aerial photo taken in 2004.

This forest has been the subject of longterm study by Wayne Sousa and students from the University of California at Berkeley. Among other aspects of mangrove forests, Sousa focuses on forest regeneration in light gaps created by lightning strikes, the most common natural agent of canopy disturbance in the region, creating clearings exceeding 1000m2.

But what happens when mangroves are cut down extensively? Have reforestation efforts with mangrove species ever succeeded at great scale?

Apparently not many, since these ecosystems are highly complex and fragile.

Experts advise to the other end: to protect, conserve and allow mangroves to spread.

Mangroves are natural filters. They keep sediment and pollutants from neighboring areas trapping them in their webs of roots. They help control floods during the rainy season and are natural barriers to extreme weather events like tsunamis and hurricanes. Are home and breeding area to a great number of organisms vital to the daily subsistence of coastal communities. Provide nutrients to the marine food chain. Contribute to avoid erosion caused by wind, high tides and water currents. They capture CO2 and avoid the intrusion of salty waters into populated coasts and crops.

Information: Lidia de Valencia
Edited by M Alvarado & ML Calderon
Photo: MA Guerra

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