“If there are no mangrove forests, then the sea will have no meaning. It is like having a tree with no roots, for the mangroves are the roots of the sea.”
July 26 marks the second celebration of International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem. Started in 2016 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the day underlines the importance mangroves play in maintaining healthy, climate change-resistant ecosystems around the world.
Let’s dive into just a few reasons why mangrove forests matter:
• Mangroves lay on the boundary between land and sea and help contribute to the protection of coastlines. They serve as a natural coastal defense, helping to reduce the effects of erosion, waves, hurricanes and tsunamis, and can even reduce heights of storm surges. In the Philippines, 70 percent of mangroves have been cut down, which is one reason why 2013 Typhoon Haiyan was so deadly:
• Mangrove forests are found in 123 countries. That may seem like a lot, but they’re actually quite rare and they represent less than one percent of tropical forests worldwide.
• Mangroves are disappearing three to five times faster than overall global forest losses. Did you know that shrimp farming has contributed to the loss of 38% of the world’s mangroves?
• Mangrove forests act as a carbon sink, holding carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests and they store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests. When destroyed or degraded, mangroves emit carbon that is thousands of years old and overwhelm the planet’s ability to store it.
• Mangrove forests are home to rich biodiversity, providing a habitat for fish, shellfish, birds, turtles and more. Eighty percent of the global fish catch directly or indirectly rely on mangroves.
• Mangrove forests keep the water clean by filtering and trapping sediments, heavy metals and other pollutants. This is important because mangroves prevent contamination of downstream habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds.
• Mangrove leaves that fall and decay provide nutrients for invertebrates and algae, the basis of the food web.
Clearly, these incredible trees help protect us from so many catastrophes – will you step up and help protect them?
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