An wide assortment of fish, crustacean, mollusk, and jellyfish species call Mangrove forests home. For coastal communities around the globe, these fisheries serve as vital sources of food. For an even greater diversity of fish, these mangrove labyrinths serve as nurseries for countless commercially caught fish species, including many reef-dwelling species. A study conducted on the Mesoamerican reef revealed that as many as 25 times more fish species live in reefs located near mangroves than in areas where mangrove forests have been cut down. The health of these forests are of critical importance now more than ever given the declining health of many reefs.
TIMBER AND PLANT PRODUCTS
An extremely useful resources for many coastal and indigenous communities worldwide, Mangroves provide a plethora of uses. Their wood is resistant to rot and insects, making it suitable for fuel and construction material, and their local ecosystems can be scoured for medicinal plants. Their leaves can serve as fodder for animals,and recent commercial exploits have seen their wood used for wood chips, pulp, and charcoal production.
Mangrove forests form barriers on the coast to prevent the erosion of coastlines by tides and storms. The root systems of mangrove forests are quite dense, trapping sediments, and preventing them from out-flows. Where mangroves have been cleared out, storm damage from hurricanes and typhoons is often much more intense. By preventing sediments from out-flowing, mangroves help sustain healthy reefs that would otherwise have been covered and suffocated by them.
It comes as a surprise that, given mangrove forests’ diversity of species, and their frequent nearness to tourist attractions like coral reefs and sandy beeches, only a few contries have tapped into the tourism potential these ecosystems have to offer. Places like Bonaire and Thailand offer snokrleling expeditions throughout the mangrove forests, giving tourists the opportunity to see a magical array of baby fish, jellyfish, urchins, and crabs making their way through the backdrop of interlaced roots digging deep into the sandy substrate. These forests must be valued intact, as they are, in order for them to provide such ecosystem services.
BEACH CLEAN UPS
Removing plastics, debris, and trash from the shores of beaches and islands, as well as from the cluttered roots of mangroves, helps maintain a healthy ecosystem. Plastics poise a unique problem to the environment because they can take up to thousands of years to degrade and fully decompose. Wildlife can consume potentially toxic debris from the shoreline, or have it wrapped around them such as the case with various penguins and birds with six-pack rings stuck around their necks.
KAYAK CLEAN UPS
Not all debris is found on the shoreline, or easily accessible from land - kayaks provide a platform to dredge canals, pick up free-floating plastics, and move through mangrove forests. Kayaks also provide a means for volunteers to see many animals that may not be easy to spot from the shore, or on coastal areas close to urban centers - such as starfish in the water, or falcons and hawks in the mangrove canopy. This engages volunteers and highlights clean ups as not only good for the environment, but a fun way to spend a day!
Through volunteer efforts and partnerships with supporting organizations, Tangency has organized various clean-ups and a restoration effort of the Biscayne Bay mangrove habitat in Miami, Florida, USA. Red mangrove seeds were collected by volunteers who were educated on the habitat ecology of the mangrove forests they were working in.