Mangroves-the forgotten forests?

Have you ever seen a tree on stilts? If so, maybe it was a mangrove tree [10]! They live in coastal seawater in the tropics and have long roots that grow underwater [10]. Sadly, over a third of mangrove forests have already been lost, and in the Americas they are being cut down faster than tropical rainforests [6]. Can we save them? Many mangrove restorations projects have failed, but we have now learnt how to do it successfully [2,11]! The choice of which trees to grow and where is critical, and local people must be at the heart of the restoration process [11]. Restoring mangroves can have a whole host of benefits [6]:

Mangroves remove CO2 from the atmosphere very efficiently: carbon builds up in the seabed for long-term storage at 45x the rate of any other habitat on land [3]! For a given area of land, they take up more CO2 than tropical forests (like the Amazon), though they cover a much smaller proportion of the planet in total [8,9]. This means that having more mangrove trees can help draw CO2 out of the atmosphere and slow climate change [5] (but they can’t fix the problem on their own – they are not “magic trees” that can remove all of human emissions [4]!).

Mangroves have extensive, strong roots, that trap soil, slowing erosion, and also acting as a barrier to waves [1,6]. Using mangroves to protect from storm surges is 5x cheaper than using a technological solution (a man-made barrier) [1]!

Moreover, mangroves provide a source of wood, fish and medicines to local people [6]. Mangroves are also beautiful and biodiverse [7], which can bring in tourists, providing locals with an additional source of income [6].

It costs only an average of 10 cents to restore 1 square meter of mangrove, compared to US$115 for coral reefs or $US135 for oyster reefs [1]. So restoring mangroves is a cost-efficient option too!

References

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