How mangroves are ecologically valuable, threats they are facing and how you can help!
Currently mangroves are one of the most threatened ecosystems worldwide. Mangrove forests are extremely important in coastal ecosystems, due to their plethora of ecological services. One of the largest services they offer is the stabilization of the coast line. The presence of mangrove forests can reduce erosion from storm surges, waves, tides, currents, UV-B radiation and other natural disasters. This is because the forests block the land from these deleterious events. This is particularly important in island nations such as the Philippines, where threats of sea level rise are eminent. Fortunately mangroves are some of the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics (Kathiresan, 2012). They remove CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and are though to help reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gasses, which are thought to contribute to climate change. Climate change poses a large threat to the Philippines, where they are already facing rising sea levels, at a rate of over 14mm annually (Kathiresan, 2012). This is one of the many reasons it is important to preserve mangrove forests.
Another unique ecological benefit of mangroves is that their complex root system slows the movement of tidal waters, which reduces the amount of suspended solids in the water. The slowing of tidal movement causes the sediments to settle out of the water and build up on the muddy bottom, acting as a nutrient sink. The root systems allow for the nutrient layer to stay firm and provides a source of food, breeding grounds and nurseries for many aquatic organisms such as fish, crab shrimp and mollusk. In coastal areas, such as the Philippines the economy largely relies upon fishing, without these habitats there will be a decline in fish. Studies have found that there are up to 25 times more fish on reefs close to mangroves, than on reefs where mangroves have been cut down (Rath).
It has also been found that mangroves have the ability to filter and absorb organic wastes. Mangroves have a high capacity for both absorbing and holding heavy metals, and have been attributed to preventing the spread of heavy metal pollution in coastal areas (“Mangroves: A filter for heavy metals”). While this is not necessarily beneficial for the mangroves themselves, it is very beneficial to the surrounding area. Without the mangroves this pollution would spread, which would be deleterious to the surrounding environment as well as nearby humans.
The Philippines are thought to be one of the 17 mega biodiversity countries in the world due to the nations geographic isolation and diverse habitats. In relation to mangroves, the Philippines are home to over 50% of the worlds mangrove species. Unfortunately due to a combination of human activities and natural disturbances the country is loosing its mangroves and resultantly decreasing in biodiversity. Some of the largest threats to mangroves in the Philippines involve humans converting mangrove forests to fish ponds, ultimately leading to natural disasters such as typhoons and sea level rise (“Issues and Threats”).
“Issues and Threats.” Philippine Mangroves: Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, 2 Apr. 2015, mangroveecology.com/ph-mangroves/issues-and-threats/. Accessed 22 Aug. 2017.
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). (2012, July 24). Mangroves: A filter for heavy metals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724104304.htm
Kathiresan, K. (2012). Importance of Mangrove Ecosystem. International Journal of Marine Science, 2(10), 70-89. Retrieved August 22, 2017.