The maggot of the plant world – mangroves

12 04 2010

I don’t know how many of my readers have waded through a mangrove swamp before – if you have, you’ll know it’s no ‘walk in the park’. They are generally mosquito-infested with waist-deep mud, have more creepy-crawlies than you can poke a stick at, and in some places (such as my former stomping ground, the Northern Territory of Australia) are down-right dangerous due to lovelies such as saltwater crocodiles.

But, most people probably don’t know just how important mangroves are. Just like the maggot who can sicken the hardiest of individual, under-appreciated mangroves provide major ecosystem services.

For example, did you know that mangroves:

  1. Protect inland human communities from damage caused by coastal erosion and storms?
  2. Provide critical habitat for a variety of terrestrial, estuarine and marine species? Indeed, it has been estimated that ~80 % of fish catches globally depend directly or indirectly  on mangroves.
  3. Are a source and sink for nutrients and sediments for other inshore marine habitats including seagrass beds and coral reefs?
  4. Protect coasts from floods?
  5. Process nutrient and organic matter?
  6. Control sediment?
  7. Provide at least US$1.6 billion per year in ecosystem services worldwide?
  8. Sequester up to 25.5 million tonnes of carbon per year?
  9. Provide more than 10% of essential organic carbon to the global oceans?
  10. Occupy only 0.12% of the world’s total land area?

Pretty staggering, no?

So, even if you don’t like them, it’s difficult to deny that they’re important.

But, like almost every other habitats worldwide, mangroves are on the big downward slide. In a new paper in PLoS One by Polidoro & colleagues entitled The loss of species: mangrove extinction risk and geographic areas of global concern, the authors not only highlight the above benefits, they quantify just how badly the 70 mangrove species around the world are faring. Read the rest of this entry »

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