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Mangroves are a group of plants or shrubs which grow partly on land partly in the sea. They thrive in heat, mud and salt which would kill other plants quickly. The ones which live in a forest are very productive and make up a complex ecosystem. Birds make their nest in the canopy of these forest while shellfish live at the roots. In fact crocodiles and snakes depend on these ecosystems for hunting grounds. In addition they are also homes to many fish, monkeys, deer, certain crabs, bats, honeybees and others.

There have been many studies does of mangroves throughout history. Many focus on some of the different trees and shrubs that make up a mangrove. Early settlers would center their research on the trees while others looked at the wildlife that made these productive areas.

The mangroves are made up of at least 70 species which originate from over 20 families. Some of the plants are palm, holly, acanthus, legumes, myrtle and hibiscus. Some of the plants grow parallel to the ground, while others may grow over 200 feet high. Many mangroves are found in Southeast Asia, but they can be found almost everywhere around the would. Many can be found close to the equator, but there are some found in temperate zones. Mangroves adapt to their environment very well. Their systems can filter out salt from the water and their roots have adapted to live in the inter-tidal area.

Worldwide these ecosystems are under threat. Many have been eliminated for salt pans, ponds, housing, roads, ports, hotels, golf courses and farms. They have also been affected by pollution, or when there is too much sediment.

In the areas where tsunamis appear they can serve as breakwaters. This allows the violence of the waves to be absorbed by the mangroves, which lower the cost of property damages, erosion and lives lost. Through this absorption of the energy, mangroves allow sediments to be deposited which helps to build their environment. There have been many conservation programs started for this ecosystem, especially after tsunamis attack, many of these programs die away as time progresses.

The loss of mangroves would also contribute to climate changes. According to the National Geographic Magazine mangroves are “highly effective carbon sinks.” Carbon dioxide is taken into their systems, which eliminates it from the atmosphere. This then lowers the greenhouse gasses in the environment. In fact, mangroves may take in more carbon of any ecosystem, of which up to a third may be transformed into mudflats. This makes them vital to the marine environment.

Very few mangroves are destroyed naturally, compared to the numbers that are killed by humans. Due to the ways in which mangroves help the environment and the natural resources they provide to humans, the conservation groups need to keep their efforts to save these going.

More about this author: Kimberly Napier

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