Mangroves are a family of plants that thrive in coastal waters and tidal zones. They are a remarkably diverse group of plants that have adapted to a wide variety of marsh environments and help to improve the quality of the water in which they grow. Because of this ability, they are an important species in the ecological balance of coastal areas and are protected from the ravages of uncontrolled development][
Mangroves a family of plants that grow in large swampy areas called mangrove swamps or mangrove forests. They may grow to the size of trees or small bushes, depending on the species. Mangroves have the ability to live in salt water, unlike many other types of plants. Some mangroves have a waxy coating on their roots to keep the salt out of the plant. Other types of mangroves have glands on their leaves that allow the salt to pass out of the plant tissues. Mangroves can close their pores to keep excess salt out. They also have root systems that allow them to “breath” through holes in the surface that makes the most of the low oxygen levels in salt water.
Where Mangroves Grow
Mangroves inhabit more than two-thirds of the saltwater coasts in tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Australia. Generally, they are found in a thin fringe of land near coastlines. Some types of mangroves are found further inland in overwash areas that experience continually marshy conditions due to overflow. Mangroves provide shelter for a wide variety of wildlife, including monkeys, manatees, monitor lizards, turtles, fish and crocodiles.
Types of Mangroves
Over 50 species of mangroves are found worldwide. Australia is home to 41 of these species. Only 4 types grow in Gulf regions of the United States and three of these types can be found along Florida’s coast- black mangroves, red mangroves and white mangroves. Each species of mangrove is singularly adapted to a slightly different ecology. Branches, stems and roots may have particular features that help the species to survive its unique portion of the environment. The red mangrove, for instance, has roots that extend above the water line, giving it the appearance of a “walking” plant.
Threats to Mangroves
Pollution, development and industry are the main threats to mangrove forests and swamps. Because the land where they grow is often wet and swampy, it is sold cheaply and used recklessly. Herbicides, oil spills and sewage have destroyed many of these unique areas. Our understanding of the importance of mangrove forests in protecting water resources has led to legislation to protect their native habitats.
In many coastal areas of the United States, mangroves are protected by law to prevent destruction of the vast forests of plants that shelter coastal wildlife and stabilize water quality. Prohibitions against building within a certain distance of the water’s edge may be enforced, or cutting of mangroves may be limited to a certain height. These efforts have helped to both conserve the number of mangroves along coastal regions, they have also helped to remove pollutants from the water in which the mangroves grow