National Geographic - Colorful Roots - "Knee-deep in the ocean, mangroves, such as this forest off the coast of Belize, support abundant sea life and flourish where no other trees can survive." (Although these mangrove roots look like they're above water, this is actually below, showing various algae and coral that flourish in mangrove forests)

5.5.1. Introduction and Biology -
Michaelangelo allocated onto the world his masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel; nature, allocated its own ecological masterpiece, the mangrove tree. As stated by New York Times' writer Kennedy Warne, "Mangroves live life on the edge. With one foot on land and one in the sea, these botanical amphibians occupy a zone of dessicating heat, choking mud, and salt levels that would kill an ordinary plant within hours". [4] Mangrove forests are extremely productive and biologically intricate ecosystems. Mangroves are a fundamental example of the "circle of life", as birds congregate in the canopy, shellfish affix themselves to mangrove roots, and snakes and crocodiles use it as a source of food. Mangroves supply nursery territories for fish; a derivation of food for deer, tree-climbing crabs, monkeys, even kangaroos; and a nectar source for honeybees and bats. [4]

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National Geographic: "Sunlight pours through the lens-clear waters that wash a Caribbean mangrove forest, flashing against a swirling school of fish and revealing the blaze of a sea star. "

5.5.2. Ecological Vitality
Mangrove trees and forests serve a fundamental role in marine environment. An estimated seventy-five percent of game fish species and ninety percent of commercial species in south Florida pass part of their lives in a mangrove forest, or rely on the mangrove system.

In eastern India, the Sundarban mangroves surround the area, and cover 2,300 square miles, forming an intricate maze of rivers, creeks and canals that are flooded daily by ocean tides (Dugan, 1993) Within the mangrove forests, wildlife is abundant as at least 35 species of reptiles, 270 bird species and 42 mammal species are native (Dugan 1993). The mangroves' vitality is such, that even the famous Bengal Tiger relies on the shelter and food provided by the mangroves, as their species thrive in these specific areas.
"The beneficial effects mangroves have on the marine ecology are summarized as follows :
  • Basis of a complex marine food chain.
  • Creation of breeding habitat.
  • Establishment of restrictive impounds that offer protection for maturing offspring.
  • Filtering and assimilating pollutants from upland run-off.
  • Stabilization of bottom sediments.
  • Water quality improvements.
  • Protection of shorelines from erosion."
- Mangrove Action Project

A diagram showing a mangrove tree's vital role in ecology, and in coastal-hazard mitigation

5.5.3. Role of Mangroves in Coastal-Hazards Mitigation
Mangroves have a vitality when it comes to various coastal hazards such as coastal erosion. Low-lying coasts are susceptible to erosion and inundation by waves, tides, storm surges and tsunamis. Mangrove forests germinating in intertidal areas mitigate the adverse effects of such coastal hazards, specifically sediment loss and erosion. Mangroves protect back shores from direct wave attack and deplete the severity of the effects of erosion, as they suppress tidal currents and decrease sea waves as they mitigate the velocity/strength of such wave attacks as they propagate through the network of pneumatophores, trunks and canopy on the mangrove fringe [3]. A maximal wave attenuation is attained when the forest canopy lies under the surface of the water. Within tens of meters of the mangrove-forest fringe tranquil conditions generally occur, as high-energy wave action is increasingly reduced; sediment rates in these areas are therefore highest and erosion somewhat diminished, and surface elevations decrease. [3] Mangroves, in sum, slow water flow, and thus augment sediment deposition.

How We Can Save Mangrove Trees
Mangrove forests exist as one of the most endangered habitats in the world. Although they support a preponderance/myriad of marine species, such as: crustaceans, young species of fish, smaller fish, etc. (mangroves also support terrestrial organisms which find the mangroves as a source of shelter and food, and birds); they are one of the most threatened habitats in the world. They're numbers are rapidly depleting with little public notice or awareness. Mangroves are mainly diminishing due to pollutants (mangrove roots are highly susceptible to clogging by crude oil and other pollutants), as well as a desire for their resources (such as coal) and an expenentially increasing desire for costal development. In order to make sure that these precious trees stay protective[d], the government needs to enforce stricter local regulations and local communities must take action. Mangroves are essential to our ecosystem, and without them, coastal and marine life will be in potential peril.

Mangrove roots, and the preponderance of marine life it supports

Mangrove roots, and the preponderance of marine life they support.

Articles and Websites to Visit for more information:
National Geographic Article: which highlights the importance of the rapidly dwindling habitats to reef communities.

Earlham College - gives a brief background to the mangroves, and defines ways to conserve the mangrove.