Why We Should Consider Mangrove Forest?
A Big Tale From The Jurassic Age
Before the Jurassic Era, mangroves appeared on Earth. That is the beginning of the great epic Mangrove drama, which encircles the history of a vast species. It was only at the time of Spanish Colonization, this tree was dragged to the great sufferings. The Spanish cut down these trees by thinking these are wastelands and the worst fact is that they didn’t even try to plant any other trees or utilize these lands. But years later we realize the truth, that it was not a waste, but our savior. Mangroves, one of the fantastic ecosystems, have a crucial role in our biodiversity. What will happen in this scene of Mangrove Drama? Let us examine the factors and let us predict the future.
Mangrove forests are marvelous ecosystems and also a great life sustainer. They have been correlated to most of the life-sustaining processes so that we could live upon here. From the pollutants to heavy metals, they block them from destroying a vast number of life forms from the hands of extinction. The latest reports and news have helped the majority of humans to understand the importance of mangrove forests. We have known their prominence nowadays only and up to that, there weren’t any big researches and reports which came out as a light to these poor trees. From sustaining the food chain to regulating the day-to-day carbon emissions, Mangroves are helping us more than our eligibility.
Firstly, we can have a look at the etymology of the term Mangrove, which comes to English from Español (mangle) or Portuguese (mangue) or Guarani. In earlier times, it wasn’t Mangrove, but Mangrow. But, the word was mistaken by the Folk etymology, which gave its name as Mangrove.
There are approximately 80 types of Mangroves all over the world. Some of them in their common names are Black mangrove, Buttonwood mangrove, white mangrove, Mangrove palm, Red mangrove, Mangrove apple, and so on. Let us look at a very few and important species among them.
The first species is Heritiera Fomes, which is very much familiar to us. It is also known in a variety of names such as sunder, Sundari, jekanazo, and pinlekanazo. Heritiera Fomes is the Mangrove species we see in Sunderbans in India and Bangladesh. In Sunderbans, this mangrove species is widely seen and while taking the area, 70 percent of the trees present there are Sundaris. This species is well-known for its timber.
This species is widely seen more in Indo-Pacific regions from the east coast of India to Thailand. When we compare Sundari with other mangrove varieties, it grows in very low saline environments and infrequently inundated drier grounds. This tree (Sundari) was given the name of Sunderbans, which means ‘Beautiful Forest’ in Bangla. Sunderbans is home to approximately 180 species of organisms.
Unfortunately, Sundaris are on the verge of extinction due to overharvesting, diversions in water in the Ganges Basin, instability in salinity due to the upstream and coastal development, and because of top dying disease, which is becoming more acute than in the past. This species is assessed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Since the 1980s, this species has been disappearing from Sunderbans because of top dying diseases and other types of dangerous diseases. Normally, Mangrove species have high resistance against such diseases but climate change and the change in the proportion of brackish water and sweet water reduces their immunity and thereby makes them less- immune to such diseases. 1.44 million cubics meter Mangrove forest has been destroyed only in Sunderbans, which have an approximate value 2,000 crores and instead of Mangroves, Gewa and Goran, two types of forest trees are grown in their place. There is a 50 percent growth for these trees.
This is all because of the destruction of the special natural environment of the Mangroves. We can’t expect that that environment could be brought back completely. According to Ainun Nishat, a water expert as well as a mangrove conserver, there are now 85.67 crores of Sundaris in Sundarbans but unfortunately, these all are on the verge of extinction. The decreasing prevention of Mangroves against the diseases is because of the increase of salt. Md Bashirul-al-Mamun, who is the West Divisional Forest Officer in Sunderbans, said that he and his officers found 30 ppm of salinity in the water in Sunderbans, which is said to be destroying the trees such as Passur, Shingra, Amur, Dhundal, Kakra including Sundaris. In order to save these trees from entire destruction, we must work from today. All we have done up to today was not right, but there is no time to sit idle and regret. Let us work as a combined force, which may have helped us to save these precious gifts of Nature. If we, as a whole, work in order to save the rest of this fabulistic ecosystem, then we could manage to protect the rest of them, at least a small percent.
The second one is Avicennia Germinans, also known as black mangrove, is also an important mangrove variety, which could be seen in the tropical and subtropical intertidal zones of the Gulf of Mexico. This is a hybrid form of Mangrove researched and prepared by our environment that it is able to flourish at a higher pace than any other mangrove species. This Mangrove variety is able to produce its young ones through its seeds, which could float on water and could move along with the waves in the sea. It is well established in the Gulf of Mexico but it could be seen on some of the other coasts near to it. Black mangroves can survive in any saline condition but only in a particular salinity, their leaves could widen more.
Black mangroves are shrubs with hardwood, which survive in salt marshes. It is adapted to very harsh climate environments and where salinity level is unstable. It has very long and thick roots with a lot of lenticels, which enables them to hold the soil tightly and thereby control soil erosion. It is also home to many species including fishes and crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, and barnacles. The dead leaves and twigs or detritus of mangroves feed a lot of microorganisms and thereby manufactures a complete ecosystem’s products. The 80 percent of the organic budget of bays in Florida comes from these black mangroves and other mangroves nearby. The black mangroves not only provide a home to marine organisms but also to many types of coastal birds including Brown Pelicans.
Now we can take another important mangrove species known as Buttonwood Mangroves or simply button mangroves. The scientific name of this species is Conocarpus Erectus. This species is very different from that of the others. It is a multiple trunked shrub with a height of one to four meters and to a maximum of 5 meters. Like black mangroves, these trees also disperse seeds in water and these seeds travel along with the waves to nearby coastal regions and establish their own kingdom there. These trees survive in tidal lagoons and bays in brackish waters and also, these trees can grow in inland habitats. This species mainly grows in Costa Rica at an altitude of 745 meters or 2,444 feet from sea level.
These trees are said to be very good for using as firewood to smoke fish and meat because it burns very slowly in a higher heat than any other wood and also produces the best charcoal in the world. This mangrove species is also used as an ornamental plant and as a bonsai. Even though it is not grown so wide, this mangrove is not said to be on the verge of extinction. But, if climate changes result in high salinity and fluctuation in water, it could be driven into that threat. But its ability to live in inland areas gives it much more security from extinction than any other mangrove species.
The next two paragraphs are dedicated to the two most important mangrove species such as white mangroves and red mangroves, which have a specialty in their reproduction.
This mangrove species has spread widely from the East coast of Africa, through South-West Asia to South Asia to Australia and in South of New Zealand. The list is extended to the Arabian countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, and throughout both sides of the Red sea, which includes countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea and Sudan, and Southern Iran and along the Persian Gulf Coast. To say the list again is just to write the names of the countries and if we are trying to do so, then a majority of this essay would be occupied by them. But we could say that this species is well established in Africa that one-third of the mangrove species present there is Red Mangrove.
This species is said to be grown as a shrub or a tree to a height of three to ten meters and in tropical regions, this will grow into 14 meters. It has multiple branches and smooth and light grey bark (which gave its name to this mangrove as white mangrove or grey mangrove) which is made up of thin and stiff flakes which are whitish. The arrangement of the leaves of this mangrove is very thick and five to eight centimeters lengthy and has a bright green color. This tree could grow up to a height of twenty centimeters and a diameter of 1 centimeter. This mangrove species has its own bright golden yellow flowers and fruits. The fruit of this plant is large and very fleshy as the seed germinates on the tree itself and falls as seedlings. The increase in water salinity can prevent this mangrove from growing to its maximum height and could make it dwarfs. But, it could grow to its height where both saline and fresh waters are present. It is said that this mangrove species could tolerate salinity by excreting excessive salts through their leaves. It could resist extreme weather conditions and different types of pests and diseases such as top dying disease and heart rot disease and so on. It is a special mangrove species that could grow in a pH value of 6.5 to 8.0. Even though it has this many qualities, it is intolerable to shade and in such a condition his variety could not survive. This mangrove species is not said to be on the verge of extinction because of its wonderful qualities, but we can’t assure that its existence would last long if the world continues like today.
Now, we can have a look at Rhizophora Mangle, which is commonly known as Red Mangrove. It is commonly seen throughout the tropical and subtropical areas in both hemispheres. The seeds of this mangrove species become mature plants before dropping off from the parent mangrove. These seedlings are capable of both water and wind pollination. These mangroves grow up to a modest height of 20 feet but in ideal conditions, it grows into a height of 80 feet. These trees have thick and hard barks with a grey-brown color. These trees have a left of about 2.5 to 5.1 centimeters wide and 7.6 to 12.7 cm long, with smooth margins and elliptical shape, and have dark green on both sides of the leaf. In the spring season, these mangroves produce yellow flowers.
The Red Mangroves grow on aerial prop roots that could be seen outside the water level. It is seen in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas coastal ecosystems. But there are a lot of threats before this mangrove species. Schinus Terebinthifolius, also known as the Brazilian Pepper tree is considered an invasive species which threatens the establishment of Red Mangroves. In some places such as Hawaii, red mangroves are considered invasive species because they grow densely there. Anyway, this mangrove species is considered a vital species because it provides shelter and hunting habitat to vast species including birds, fishes, and Crocodiles.
Mangroves can be considered as shrubs or most probably small trees. These small trees are mainly seen in tropical and subtropical latitudes near the equator as they are not able to stand against freezing temperatures. But they can withstand up to a cool temperature of 50 Celsius. They are adapted to survive in brackish water or coast and are adapted to live in harsh sea weather conditions. They have a very complex saltwater filtration through their thick roots and resist the salt immersion and huge wave actions. They are present in slow-moving waters which allow the accumulation of fine sediments. They exist mainly on less Oxygen available waterlogged mud and absorb a huge amount of Carbon Dioxide than any other tree.
Even though Mangroves are playing a vital role in the slowing down of Global Warming, we are floccinaucinihilipilificating them. We do not understand that they are above our status and instead of tormenting them, we must protect them as they protect us from huge, disastrous waves, which could drive us into a huge catastrophe. Nevertheless, we are humans and we know that our mind alteration is somewhat complex, that many of us will still survive to torment, whatever others say. But we should realize that the only thing we could do is to try to conserve them to our maximum.
Many of us may know the facts which I have said now. The following paragraphs are going to discuss the origin, existence, advantages, and our role in this mangrove drama and so going facts that evoke a critical response in every one of us.
The Mangrove Drama had started 66 million years ago. After the origin, the mangroves started exploring with their floating propagules and seeds along with the ocean currents, to the westward, to India and East Africa, and Eastwards to America, by conquering coasts of Central and South America. The flourishing of the great Mangroves is said to be between 66 million years ago, in the Upper Cretaceous Period and in Lower Miocene Epoch. According to the Geological period, the Upper Cretaceous Period is the last three periods of the Mesozoic Era, which began 145.0 million years ago which lasted up to 66 million years ago, which was followed by the Jurassic period succeeded by the Paleogene period and the time period before Oligocene and Pliocene, before 23.03 to 5.3 million years ago, which had warmer climates than the following periods, is what we call the Lower Miocene Epoch. The kelp forests and grasslands, which are the two main important ecosystems first formed during the Oligocene and Pliocene periods.
During the two main periods such as the Upper Cretaceous Period and the Lower Miocene Epoch, Mangroves spread all over the Caribbean Sea mainly on where today’s Panama lies. Later the Mangroves may have reached the western coast of Africa and New Zealand which lies far away in the South. This will be the reason for the increase of Mangroves in Asia, especially in India and Bangladesh, and in East Africa, where we could find a vast species of Mangroves, whereas we could only find a very few species in America and West Africa.
The Mangrove Drama is still continuing on the stage while we are standing on the stage ignorant about the role of the main character. We cannot argue that we are the domain of this environment and that Stock Exchange and American Presidents are the major factors that influence the complete Earth. Here, economy and administrative power do not have much place than the lungs of the Earth, especially Mangrove forests. Instead of stone-breaking orders, we need stone-breaking responsibility towards the environment and our fellow beings, which includes not only humans but also all other species surviving on the Earth. Because of our stupid activities, the entire Global system got damaged. All that happened was a toy given to an infant, which he played well in his own way.
Even though we cannot bring our Earth to the times of the Hunter-gatherers, we could at least create a far better green society than contemporary society. To live as a human being, we all depend on different types of inevitable things such as oxygen, water, and food. In our present situation, more than any other plants, Mangroves and Bamboo are most useful to all of us. Bamboos grow fast and it gives strong protection against soil erosion. But more than that, Mangroves are helping us. The following paragraphs could give you much more explanations about their services to our Global System.
The Mangrove Forests are a great ecosystem, which provides food and shelter to a vast array of species. The entire living organisms in the world are very much linked to the mangrove forests either directly or indirectly. An 80 percent of organisms such as fishes, lobsters, cretaceous, and even small micro-organisms in the ocean ecosystem, is directly linked with Mangrove forests and the extinction of Mangroves can drive a lot of species in the world into complete extinction. The micro-organisms in the mangroves live by breaking down organic matters such as mangrove leaves and twigs. These microorganisms are eaten by some other fish babies and these small fishes are eaten by a huge fish and after the death of the fish it is eaten by microorganisms and this process continues to reign for many many years without an end, until the death of one of the species. One of the extinctions in the cyclic food chain could distort the balance and could even lead to the destruction of the entire species.
Mangrove Forests reduce the threats of soil erosion, Tsunamis, coastlines, and strong tidal waves.
Not only the marine organisms but also all of us are enjoying the products or partnership products of Mangroves. The rural communities who all work as fishermen and so on are very much dependent on these mighty trees.
Mangroves improve the water quality of the waters they survive. They filter the waters with their high dense network of roots and trap heavy metals, pollutants, and other sediments. The coral reefs and seagrasses are often seen along with the mangrove trees because the mangroves filter all the problematic sediments which come along with the water bodies. The coral reefs and seagrasses are both very sensitive and pollutants could destroy them easily. So in order to survive, these two species must be along with Mangroves.
These trees provide a vast breeding and hunting habitat to almost all organisms in the marine ecosystem. Caranx Spp or most probably Kingfishes, Sheepshead (Archosargus phallusosephalus), Grunts (Haemulon Spp), Gobies (Gobiosoma spp), Schoolmasters (Lutjanus Apodus), Gray Snappers ( Lutjanus Griseus), and Small Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus Itajara), are some important fish species who all breeds and lives in the mangrove forests. Salmon Fish (Salmo Salar) is an example of an important fish species that breeds in the mangrove forests. There are a lot of fish species that depend on the mangrove forests for breeding and hunting. Not only fishes but also others such as shrimps, crabs, crab-eating monkeys, and even tigers are very much dependent on these tree species. The best example of this is the Royal Bengal Tigers in Sunderbans. The Bengal Tigers in Sunderbans are always dependent on the mangroves for food and shelter. There are about 108 tigers in Sunderbans now. If Sunderbans get distorted, then the Bengal tigers would get into trouble and in loss to the natural habitat, their species may get to the verge of extinction.
Mangroves have great carbon storage that they have a forte to suck more carbon and other greenhouse gases to trap in the soil they are rooted in. They capture more carbon than any other type of forest. It is said that a matured mangrove forest could store three to five times more carbon equivalent area than any tropical forest such as the Amazon Rainforest. To conserve mangroves is enough to fight against the major ecological problems such as increased Carbon emissions which lead to Global Warming, and its side results such as intolerable climate changes, the rise of sea levels, and so on.
Mangroves are sometimes food providers that Acrostichum Aureum is a mangrove species which have seeds and fiddleheads which are edible if cooked. The fruits of certain mangroves are also edible.
These trees also provide many traditional and also modern medicines. The mangroves were first exploited for firewood and charcoal and no one realized it as a medicine for many diseases and conditions. Each mangrove species has various uses. For Example, Acanthus ebracteatus Vabl is a mangrove species in which its leaf juice is used to preserve hair. There are many more mangroves which are very valuable medicines.
The mangroves also provide a high resistive defense for the shore and thereby protect the complete structure, whether natural or man-made, from huge tidal waves and Tsunamis. Not only Mangroves provides shelter and manufactures invaluable natural food products, but also directly gives us Commercial Projects such as Eco-Tourism and so on. Through Ecotourism a huge amount of money could be brought to a country or to a place. The Mangrove Forests are becoming a superb tourist attraction, which if given enough marketing will provide us a lot of money. But, the Mega Tourism could slay Mangroves and could result in heavy locked damage to our ecosystem. So, if we are concerned about our future generation, we must achieve development in a sustainable way. Many countries including India and China must realize the importance of sustainable development. Industrial Pollution is creating a mega impact on the whole biosphere and if not choosing a path that is equally suitable for both Nature and us, we may have regret our later causes, which will indeed make our planet Earth not suitable for life. The Mangrove Forests are said to be the greatest carbon consumers in the world and therefore we must nurture them for our future and also for all the future generations of all organisms sustaining in the world.
There are a lot of threats faced by each and every mangrove community which of course, include Mega Tourism and Industrial Water Pollution. Mega Tourism projects which completely alter the natural environment could slay the mangroves. The water pollution includes oil spilled and the side effects of Herbicides such as Glypho-Glyphosate 41 SL, Paraquat (Gramoxone), Atrazine, Triclopyr, and so on, could destruct the entire ecosystems including mangroves. In the case of mangroves, it could even tolerate high salinity but not a little bit of water pollution. Avoiding such harmful substances is better for the forthcoming world.
Another Global threat is Shrimp Farming which causes huge damage to our ecosystem. While farming shrimp on a business scale, hundreds of thousands of wetlands including mangrove forests and similar ecosystems are cleared to make artificial ponds, in which a large scale amount of shrimp is nurtured to grow on a commercial basis. The shrimp farmers dig many channels to supply these ponds with seawater and freshwater. These channels affect the natural flow of water which plays a major role in the health of the mangroves and similar ecosystems. These diversions in water could harm mangrove seeds which should be dispersed in the seawater and it could also kill them because of the lack of availability of freshwater. The shrimp farmers commonly use many types of antibiotics and chemicals and also the huge amount of organic wastes could contaminate the nearby freshwater and seawater resources. This can also cause the depletion of natural biodiversity which includes some rare species of fish, lobsters, and so on.
Chopping down of mangroves for timber and charcoal is also not at all desirable and we may later be responsible for vast ecological damage. Once, it becomes severe, it is harsh to reset it back. So, to utilize the biological resources without any harm to them could only create a more stable world. Conserving the helpful mangroves is a better way to resist two-third of global ecological problems.
Even though Mangroves have a great many advantages it also has some disadvantages in some strange viewpoints. The mangroves should only be planted in places where there are no other native plant species because the mangroves absorb a good amount of nutrients from the soil and also from other native plants which may result in rapid growth and development in mangroves and weakening and destruction of the nearby plant species. For everything, there is a negative point. Without researching and analyzing the particular conditions in a particular area we must not attempt to grow any plant species because we may have thought the outcome will be good, but the veracity will be just vice versa. A great example of it is what had happened in 1906 in Nigeria after planting mangroves.
The Nigerian Government knew that to protect the shorelines from coastal erosion, it is best to plant mangroves and it is even heard that mangroves could even reduce the chance and impacts of Tsunami. And the Nigerian Government implemented it in Nigeria that they exported hundreds of Nipa Palms, which is a variety of Mangroves from Singapore, and planted it on the coastlines of Nigeria. The Mangroves grew and developed densely at a high pace but the nearby native trees disappeared and were replaced by these Mangroves.
The second disadvantage of Mangroves is that through this mosquitos increase. The mosquitoes normally increase in stagnant saltwater in mangrove swamps, where black mangroves survive. These mosquitoes are epidemic carriers and pests to many organisms in the world.
The third one is that the mangrove forests normally have a foul smell of rotten egg which many of us may find disgusting. The odor which comes from the mangroves is because of the breakdown of organic matter by the microorganisms for their livelihood. The decaying of organic matters includes many chemical processes. The formation of Hydrogen Sulphide, the by-product of the sulfur reaction is the secret behind this foul fragrance.
The post problems are somewhat of a problem on special occasions but while considering the sustainable perspective, Mangroves are not a wasteland of many useless trees. Instead, they are treasures in the eyes of an environmentalist. Let us remember the words of an ordinary fisherman in Southern Thailand, If there are no mangrove forests, then the sea will have no meaning. It is like having a tree with no roots, for the mangroves are the roots of the sea.
These words themselves approve the significance of mangroves in our biodiversity.
We must certainly conserve the mangroves as it is a matter of fact that affects our whole biosphere. We could conserve mangroves by prohibiting the destruction of mangroves by the black hands of industrialists. A few laws over the world countries such as the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 in India, Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) in the USA, National Protection and Preservation of Forest Act in the Philippines are all almost successful in preventing the destruction of mangrove forests and protecting other forest areas. By creating artificial mangrove forests with respect to the research data that can help to find the better mangrove variety that could be grown in that distinct area would be helpful for the better development of the mangroves.
Anyway, to use these ‘treasure roots’ wisely is the job of man and nothing else while considering the Mangrove Drama. But what happens on the stage is just the opposite of what we are actually appointed to. We are taking everything for granted. This way of acting is not at all desirable for humans, because there are a lot of characters in this drama in long and short roles and we must consider the roles of all other animals rather than taking over the stage for ourselves. It is better to conserve mangroves and other trees than distorting them to mass destruction that could drive many species out of the drama and we could sit for ourselves on the stage by putting many chairs like taking a group photo of the century. But after a few days, the number of members will start decreasing because of the lack of resources to have. Then slowly, the drape will fall over the stage by showing a scene of a complete Graveyard.
In order to avoid such a dreadful scene let us work from now. We must reduce our water pollution and cutting down of trees, most importantly, the Mangroves. As only water pollution could distort the complete mangroves from this world. In order to oppose such a disaster, we must work from now.
For each and every act which is not well planned and analyzed could create a huge problem for every one of us. Mangroves could be taken as the partnership manufacturing company working at Nature. We cannot say Mangroves are bad just because of their foul smell and we cannot say that they are not good just because mosquitoes flourish from such an ecosystem because we humans are more disastrous than the mosquitoes and no other organism could resist us in our destructive spirit. We all must admit that we are not the domain in the biosphere, but just another species like every other. Greed is not the piece of cloth required for sustainable development. Instead, we want an economy based on tolerable and sustainable environmental policies. For a better life along with the icing of peace, we need to grow and develop more than today not just with our economy but also with our environment. To create such a tree-full and peaceful life, we need mangroves, we need trees, we need other organisms and also we need a peaceful biosphere. What we live up to today is just the past, and what we are in the future is just the future, and what we are now, and what we are doing now, is more important than anything. We all know that mangroves can save us and we and they are both made for each other protectors. For survival in this world, we need to cooperate with each other.
In short, mangroves are very dense and the best ecosystems, homes, and hunting habitat of many species and a great carbon storager and a good friend to all organisms including humans. But they are on the verge of extinction and in order to save them is literally in order to save us itself. We must prevent their extinction and thereby we could prevent the extinction of a vast amount of species including humans. We can all believe that the mangrove drama is in its most suspenseful and threatening progress and can hope that the happy and prosperous climax is too close. A herculean work at this eleventh hour by considering the pros and cons could only help in the growth of a pulchritude and an amazingly eco-friendly world, where the most threatening ecological issues will no longer exist.