Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mangroves - Importance, Threats and Protection

Mangroves are trees that live in low-oxygen soil, typically in a brackish environment of tropical and sub-tropical climate. Submerged partially in the waters, they adapt to the flow and ebb of the slow waters along the coastline. The mangrove forests form a unique ecosystem, supporting a plethora of organisms.


The mangroves encourage rich sedimentation and thereby protect the land from natural calamities like erosion, tsunami and flooding. They form a protecting wall, diverting the winds and waters. The roots also filter toxins and pollutants from the waters, enabling the flow of clean water in-to the sea. The rich nutrients and the muddy waters in the forests are perfect for many juvenile fishes and prawns. They provide a flourishing environment for crustaceans, mollusks, bees and birds. Mammals like rats and monkeys are abundantly found near the mangrove forests.

Mangroves are known for their use as firewood. They are considered superior in quality. Tanin, a chemical found in their barks are used by the fishermen to dye their nets; the durability of the nets are increased this way.

The mangrove ecosystem is rich and important like an agricultural field—its benefits are 25 times more than that of the agricultural field. The forests are vital to the socioeconomic growth of a country with their commercial potential like the fisheries and honey collection. They are also a developing destination for ecotourism.


The developing countries are home to more than 90% of the world's mangrove forests; they are critically endangered in 26 countries. In the year 1997, the world's mangrove forests were estimated to cover 18.2 million sq. km, a study in the year 2005 revealed the figure to be less than 15 million sq. km. The mangroves are degrading rapidly and it's high time to protect the invaluable resources.

The causes for mangrove degradation are categorized as: human and natural. Natural calamities like tsunami and flooding damage the forests. This takes a considerable time to recover. Diseases and parasitic attacks are the other natural factors that contribute to the destruction of mangroves. The man-made threats to the mangroves are: urbanization, pollution, climate changes, overfishing, mining, clearing for agriculture and cutting for firewood.


In most of the countries where mangroves occur, they are protected by law. There are active conservation plans to restore and stop further degradation of the mangroves. The conservation efforts are different for each country and are followed case-to-case basis. Some of the strategic plans include:
  • Survey and Demarcation
  • Pollution Control
  • Restoration – Afforestation and Nursery Development
  • Public Awareness
  • Research
  • Sustainable Practices
  • Responsible Tourism

How can You Help

The effective method to protect the mangroves is by involvement. Follow the below simple steps to help.

Know the Mangroves – Learn about the mangroves in your area and get yourself acquainted with the species and their benefits.

Report Incidents – If you happen to see any illegal activities or threats for the forests, report to the forest department.

Follow Sustainable Practices – For your tours around this sensitive area, always practice responsible tourism. Refrain from littering and damaging the fragile ecosystem.

Make Yourself Heard – Join an organization that works on the protection of the local mangroves. Donate or involve in a project to restore the mangroves.

The mangrove forests act as a buffer between the land and the sea. The key benefit of a mangrove forest is that it can protect us against global warming by absorbing the excess carbon in the air. The growing sea levels are a global concern and mangroves have the potential to save us from the rapid climate change. Help the mangroves today and let the future enjoy our rich legacy.


Balasubramanian, T, Kathiresan, K & Khan, Ajmal. International Training Course on Mangroves and Biodiversity. United Nations University. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2011.

Machintosh, Donald & Ashton, Elizabeth. A Review of Mangrove Biodiversity Conservation and Management. Centre for Tropical Ecosystems Research. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2011.

Conservation and Management of Mangroves, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. Of India. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2011.

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