They are guardians of coasts, of crabs, of carbon.
Surviving “only on the slimmest of margins,” as Conservation International’s M. Sanjayan writes, mangrove forests are, arguably, the planet’s most important ecosystem.
They are also perhaps its most misunderstood. Few people outside the tropics have ever ventured into a mangrove forest; likely fewer realize just how important a mangrove forest is in buffering storms, feeding communities and stabilizing climate.
In this piece, Sanjayan takes you into the heart of a Brazilian mangrove forest — a still, steamy swampland of roots and mud where a small boat can only barely navigate — and into the heart of a community working to protect it.
“We seek narrow channels that wind through the trees and their spidery tangles of roots,” he writes. “Beneath us, the water is like black tea, its oily surface interrupted on occasion by the swirl of a fin of a fish, unseen below. No one dares speak above a whisper.”
Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director.