Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Mangrove Forests Vital to Coastal Stability

By Frontiergap @FrontierGap

More than 35% of the world’s mangroves are already gone, and reports show that the figure is as high as 50% in countries such as India, the Philippines, and Vietnam, while in the Americas they are being cleared at a rate faster than that of the tropical rainforests.

Mangrove forests vital to coastal stability

Image courtesy of Halseike

Research demonstrates that mangrove forests are vitally important for stabilising costal areas in a way that no engineering and technological creation can, and if removed from these areas the resulting erosion and rising sea levels can lead to serious problems. Mangroves not only help in preventing soil erosion but also act as a catalyst in reclaiming land from the seas. As there is a general tendency for water to eventually engulf the land that it surrounds, and mangroves act as an essential buffer between the land and the sea and prevents this engulfing taking place.  The areas of costal Mangrove forests and estuaries are also the breeding and nursery grounds for a number of marine dwelling species including the shrimp, crab, and some fish species. Therefore if mangrove forests are continually destroyed, it will not only have a large impact on the costal protection system put in place by nature, but it will affect the economy through the losses in the fishing industry that the destruction will lead to.

Mangrove forests are disappearing for a number of reasons. They are often thought of as unproductive and smelly, and so are cleared out to make room for agricultural land or human settlements. Over harvesting can often also be a problem for the forests as mangrove trees are used for firewood and construction and animal fodder, among other uses, and while harvesting has been taking place for centuries, in some parts of the world the harvesting is no longer sustainable. The destruction of coral reef is aiding to the destruction of the mangrove forests – as the reefs usually provide the first barrier against currents and strong waves, and so when they are destroyed, the waves that hit the mangroves are at full force and more damaging. Prawn farming is also having a devastating effect on mangrove forests as farmers pull out the trees and flood the land with salt and chemical filled water in order to cultivate the correct conditions for breeding and producing prawns. Not only does this reduce the amount of mangrove forests in the world currently, but also permanently reduces it, as the change on the land is so severe that the conditions will never be right for a mangrove to grow there again.

The buffer than Mangroves provide against the sea is essential for basic soil erosion prevention, but also has greater consequences in the occurrence of a tsunami. The giant waves that are created by these acute weather conditions can be slowed down and the amount of damage slightly reduced by the mangroves that fringe the land and the sea. However the reduction of the forests due to removal, farming, and coral damage means that these protective buffers are being lost worldwide.

By Ellie Cambridge

Work protecting Mangrove forests in Madagascar on any of Frontier's forest or marine coservation projects.

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