Mangroves are ecosystems made up of a variety of trees that grow in tropic and sub-tropic coastal areas in intertidal water with a heavy salt content. These tidal forests provide refuge to a number of different animal species and shield coastlines from damaging weather and erosion. Mangrove forests can be found all over the world, and the conservation of mangroves is practiced in a number of countries worldwide. Trees that live in mangrove forests have special adaptations that allow them to thrive in salty water and changing tides.
Thriving along coastal waters, rivers, and estuaries, mangrove forests are important ecosystems. Nutrients formed in the mangrove are carried out by the tide to feed life in the ocean, which includes fish, oysters, crabs, shrimp, barnacles, sponges and algae. The immense root system of mangroves slows the movement of water so that sediment is deposited to form a barricade against erosion. These ecosystems protect coastlines and other habitats from the torrents and flooding of hurricanes, tropical storms and tidal waves. Mangrove roots are capable of filtering toxic heavy metals from sediment, therefore the conservation of mangroves is key to avoiding contamination of the water and harm to the animals that live in the ecosystem.
Mangrove forests can be found in three-fourths of the world’s tropical coastlines and estuaries. The importance of the conservation of mangroves is recognized worldwide. Countries in the Americas, Asia and Africa have taken steps to protect these unique ecosystems. Conservation of mangroves was a difficult lesson in Sri Lanka as farming and industrial waste affected many mangrove forests prior to a 2004 tsunami, or tidal wave, causing unspeakable loss of life and property damage. Not surprisingly it was the areas with dense, healthy mangroves where property was better protected from flooding and erosion.
Over 100 trees are considered mangrove species, and a little over 50 of these live only in the mangrove ecosystem. These trees have adapted in remarkable ways to their salty environment. A lack of oxygen in the watery sediment has forced some mangrove trees to adapt by taking in oxygen through their bark or special structures. The roots of some mangrove trees can filter out salt, and what salt does manage to get through is shifted to old leaves. Mangrove trees can efficiently conserve water by minimizing evaporation, shifting the orientation of their leaves to protect them from the hot midday sun.