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Living on the Edge


Photo by MarineGEO

We recently ran across this fascinating article on mangroves, courtesy of the folks at Smithsonian’s Marine Global Earth Observatory.

Mangrove forests are considered one of the most important, and complex, ecosystems on the planet, found in subtropical and tropical coastlines of nearly 120 countries.

The article explains how they exist in a delicate balance with neighboring coastal systems, climatic conditions, and human activity.

“Ranging from small shrubs to trees nearly 200 feet tall in some parts of the world, mangroves have become masters of adaptation to the kind of swampy, brackish waters that would suffocate most other species: they filter out salt as water enters their roots, store fresh water in their fleshy leaves, and some even send thin shoots up to the water surface to act as mini snorkels.

Massive and gnarled, the root systems of mangrove forests grow mostly above the waterline. This helps to stabilize and even oxygenate the plants, thanks to thousands of microscopic pores that exist on the bark and roots.

In addition to serving as home and hunting ground to an incredible diversity of animal life, mangroves are valuable resources to the people who live along the oceans. They stabilize the coastline by preventing sediment erosion, offer protection against hurricanes and other devastating storms, and serve as important sources of food, lumber, and medicine for people in many nations. In addition, recent studies of the carbon inputs and outputs of mangrove forests suggest they are “carbon sinks,” that is, highly effective at absorbing carbon dioxide—a large percentage of which is sequestered in forest sediments — thus reducing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.”

Click here to read more about these “watery forests” that are very special to all of us who love Southwest Florida!


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