If you are unaware, the International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystem actually falls on the 26th of July every year. Why do we even need a special day for mangrove conservation? Well, there are reasons behind this, let us share with you why is mangrove so important for our environment and ecosystem.
1. Food Source
Mangroves are among the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems on Earth. The mangrove forests are important feeding grounds for thousands of species and support a diverse food web. It serves as a food source for monkeys, deer, birds, and a source of nectar for honeybees. Some organisms will eat the leaves directly, especially crabs and insects, while microbes and fungi among the mangrove roots use the decaying material as fuel. In return, they recycle nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and iron for the mangroves.
2. Natural Coastal Defence
One of the important functions of mangrove forests is to act as a defence against storm surges, tsunamis, rising sea levels, and erosion. A 500-meter mangrove strip reduces wave heights by 50 to 99% because mangrove forests serve as excellent buffer zones between the open ocean and coastal lands, which helps in reducing the impacts of storms, and keeping coastal erosion under control.
3. Important Habitat
Nonetheless, mangrove forests provide a valuable nursery habitat for fish and crustaceans. The mangrove roots and shallow waters offer shelter from predators until the juveniles reach a size large enough to avoid most predators. The shallow waters and exposed mudflats of the mangroves also make this habitat ideal for probing shoreline birds such as plovers and sandpipers. There are various habitats in the mangrove forest and wetlands ecosystem, for example, otters, manatees, water snakes, alligators, and many other microorganisms.
4. Carbon Sinks
Mangrove forests are excellent at absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, sequestering vast amounts of carbon within the soil, leaves, branches, roots, etc. One hectare of mangrove can store 3,754 tons of carbon; it’s the equivalent of taking 2,650+ cars off the road for one year. As the trees grow, they take the carbon from carbon dioxide and use it as the building blocks for their leaves, roots, and branches. Once the leaves and older trees die, they fall to the seafloor and take the stored carbon with them to be buried in the soil. This buried carbon is known as “blue carbon” because it is stored underwater in coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes.
What is the problem now?
Mangroves are survivors, and mangrove swamps are extremely important to our own well-being and to the health of the planet. With their roots submerged in water, mangrove trees thrive in hot, muddy, salty conditions that would quickly kill most plants. So now you know about the functions of mangrove forests, let’s look into the problems that we are facing now.
Unfortunately, mangroves are disappearing 3 to 5 times faster than overall global forest losses, with serious ecological and socio-economic impacts. The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the US Geological Survey have released a first-ever satellite analysis of global mangrove forest coverage. The analysis reveals a total area of 137,760 square kilometers, 12.3% lower than had previously been estimated, and shrinking. This will definitely affect our ecology and what we are facing is a huge loss!
What can you do?
Here are what we can do before it is too late:
Understand the importance and why mangrove forest is at risk. Knowledge is necessary because it will change the way we think. Therefore, we need to understand how nature works before we talk about it.
Educate people. We need to create awareness about mangrove forests and educate our people about the amazing and importance of mangroves. As we talk about it, more people will be able to understand the reasons behind the conservation and start to take action.
Take actions. Restore the ecosystem. As there is a gradual loss of mangrove forests, we need to take action to plant and conserve the forest as soon as we can. However, before planting new mangroves, it is important to understand the cause of forest degradation or disappearance. In the case of pollution, over-harvesting, or other causes that can be eliminated, mangroves can recover naturally.
Make sustainable choices. Change our daily habits, for example reducing single-use plastic and waste. Although it seems like a small thing to do, this will create a great impact to our environment if all of us do the same thing. Without plastic pollution, we will be able to protect and conserve not only mangrove forests but as well as the rest of nature and ecosystems. By reducing the threats, our nature is able to recover by itself.
In short, it is our responsibility to take care of the environment, before it is too late, let’s spare a moment to understand more about our precious mangrove forest and its ecosystem today. We hereby wishing everyone a Happy International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem!