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Mangroves:
11 facts you need to know

These unique trees lead tough lives — but we’re all the better for it.

What are mangroves? Mangroves are tropical trees that thrive in conditions most timber could never tolerate — salty, coastal waters, and the interminable ebb and flow of the tide. With the ability to store vast amounts of carbon, mangrove forests are key weapons in the fight against climate change, but they are under threat worldwide. By protecting mangroves, we can help protect the future of our planet.

Share these facts about mangroves and help make a difference.

 

© Conservation International/Esther Anne F. Bueno

Mangroves can be a bit salty

Unlike most trees, mangroves can grow directly in salty or brackish water.1 Their strategies for dealing with otherwise toxic levels of salinity vary — some species secrete salt after it is absorbed, while others filter out salt from the surrounding seawater.2 Tweet this fact »

 

© Trond Larsen

Mangroves come in a variety of sizes

Though estimates vary, there are at least 50 — and maybe as many as 80 — mangrove species, ranging in height from small shrubs to trees that stand 40 meters above the water, but all species thrive in low-oxygen, high-saline coastal environments.3, 4 Tweet this fact »

 

© Matthew D Potenski 2011/Marine Photobank

Fish flock to mangroves

Mangroves, specifically the underwater habitat their roots provide, offer critical nursing environments for juveniles of many marine species, from tiny gobies to massive crocodiles.5 Tweet this fact »

 

© bartolomeo/Flickr Creative Commons

Mangroves live on the edge

Mangrove forests can be found on the saltwater coasts of more than 100 tropical and subtropical countries, totaling more than 140,000 square kilometers (54,000 square miles)6 — roughly the size of Greece or Arkansas. Tweet this fact »

 

© Kyle Obermann

Indonesia tops the worldwide list

The largest amount of mangrove coverage can be found in Indonesia, where mangrove trees cover some 31,000 square kilometers (about 12,000 square miles)7 — that’s more than twice the size of Jamaica or roughly the size of Maryland. Tweet this fact »

 

 

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© Jeff Yonover

Florida mangroves prefer the southern coast

The United States has roughly 2,000 square kilometers (about 800 square miles) of mangroves7 — an area about four-fifths the size of Luxembourg — located almost entirely in southern Florida. Tweet this fact »

 

© Arun Roisri

Mangroves have (carbon) hoarding issues

Blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, sea grasses and salt marshes) can be up to 10 times more efficient than terrestrial ecosystems at absorbing and storing carbon long term8, making them a critical solution in the fight against climate change. Tweet this fact »

 

© Trond Larsen

Mangroves can help keep people safe

Mangrove forests — specifically, their thick, impenetrable roots — are vital to shoreline communities as natural buffers against storm surges9, an increasing threat in a changing global climate with rising sea levels. Tweet this fact »

 

© Kyle Obermann

There’s trouble in Myanmar

Mangroves are under threat nearly everywhere, but the problem is particularly acute in Myanmar, where one study estimated10 the mangrove loss rate is more than five times the global average. Tweet this fact »

 

© Keith A. Ellenbogen

Shrimping is a jumbo problem

In Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia, mangroves are often cut down to make room for temporary shrimp pens. But once the pens have been removed, the accumulated biowaste renders the water too toxic for most forms of life.3 Tweet this fact »

 

© Nandini Narayanan

It’s better to revitalize than replant

Mangroves’ dense root systems inhibit the flow of tidal water and encourage the deposition of nutrient-rich sediments. But once lost, mangroves are very difficult to replant due to shifts in the very sediments the roots helped keep in place.11 Tweet this fact »

 

Our Solutions

Mangrove tree in Indonesia at sunset.
© Mathias Japri

Conservation International is an active partner in the Global Mangrove Alliance, an organization of technical experts, policy makers and non-governmental organizations dedicated to promoting mangrove conservation and regrowth.

The Alliance’s strategy aims to increase the extent of global mangrove habitats by 20 percent by 2030, an ambitious target that will pay dividends for climate change mitigation, biodiversity and the well-being of coastal communities around the world.

In addition to its work with the Alliance, Conservation International works with local communities to protect and revitalize mangrove ecosystems in Indonesia, where logging, mining and commercial development place critical mangrove habitats at risk. As part of this effort, Conservation International has collaborated with policy makers in Indonesia’s West Papua province to establish firm conservation guidelines, including the placement of 30 percent of coastal waters in marine protected areas and the elimination of threats for 100 percent of the provinces mangrove habitats.

 

References

  1. Somma, Marina. Trees That Grow in Saltwater sciencing.com, https://sciencing.com/trees-that-grow-in-saltwater-13429031.html. 21 September 2022.
  2. Lim, K., Murphy, D., Morgany, T., Sivasothi, N., Ng, P., Soong, B. C., Tan, H., Tan, K. S., Tan, T. K., (2001). A Guide to Mangroves of Singapore. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, The National University of Singapore & The Singapore Science Centre. http://mangrove.nus.edu.sg/guidebooks/text/1042.htm
  3. Feller, C. (Ed.). Smithsonian. (2018, April). Mangroves. https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/mangroves
  4. NOAA. (2021, March 25). What is a mangrove forest? National Ocean Service website. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/mangroves.html
  5. Florida Museum. (2020, November 27). Mangrove Life. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/southflorida/habitats/mangroves/mangrove-life/
  6. ​FAO. 2020. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020: Main report. Rome. https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/ca9825en
  1. Beys-da-Silva, W. O., Santi, L., & Guimarães, J. A. (2014). Mangroves: A Threatened Ecosystem Under-Utilized as a Resource for Scientific Research. In Journal of Sustainable Development (Vol. 7, Issue 5). Canadian Center of Science and Education. https://doi.org/10.5539/jsd.v7n5p40
  2. NOAA. (2022, June 8). Coastal Blue Carbon. National Ocean Service website. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/ecosystems/coastal-blue-carbon/
  3. Blankespoor, B., Dasgupta, S., & Lange, G.-M. (2016). Mangroves as a protection from storm surges in a changing climate. In Ambio (Vol. 46, Issue 4, pp. 478–491). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0838-x
  4. Richards, D. R., & Friess, D. A. (2015). Rates and drivers of mangrove deforestation in Southeast Asia, 2000–2012. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 113, Issue 2, pp. 344–349). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1510272113
  5. Waters, H. Smithsonian. (2016, December). Mangrove Restoration: Letting Mother Nature Do The Work. https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/mangrove-restoration-letting-mother-nature-do-work