Image: A cluster of mangroves emerging from the salt water in Kenya.

What is a Mangrove and Why Are They One of The World’s Most Important Trees?

What stands on stilts in the ocean, is home to thousands, and captures tons of CO2 from our atmosphere? Allow me to introduce you to the Mangroves, a loosely-related group of trees that live life—and support life—unlike any other! They’re living proof that finding ways to thrive in tough situations can create a safe haven for others.

Most of the trees you’ve probably encountered have lived their lives with their roots tucked into the soil. But mangroves do it differently! Propped up on their sprawling roots, they stand proudly in the salty waters that would kill any tree.

Here’s your crash course on why these unique trees are worth gushing about!

Image: A cluster of mangroves emerging from the salt water in Kenya.
Source: Unsplash

Meeting the Mangroves!

If you live along a somewhat tropical coast anywhere in the world, you’re probably familiar with these leggy trees. But for the rest of us living inland, it’s a safe bet that you don’t see their impact every day!

Mangroves are a group of trees with the ability to thrive in salt water. All in all, there are 58 true species from 16 different families. This means that mangroves aren’t necessarily related to each other, they’re just friends who have the same abilities to live near super salty land. 1

Regardless of their lineage, each mangrove has developed the special skills to survive in these murky, low-oxygen soils. Scientists separate their tactics as “secretors” and “non-secretors,” meaning trees will either sweat the salt out of special pores and through their leaves, or completely block the salt from getting in from the beginning!

Why are mangroves so important?

Like all trees, mangroves are fantastic at pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing it, but they do it a bit more intensely. In fact, one acre of mangroves can sequester 1,450 pounds of carbon — the same amount as a car driving across the United States 3 times (or 7,560 miles)! 2

They’re a fantastic habitat for birds—like our land-tree pals are—but mangrove roots also support another entire ecosystem.

Not only do their roots support them in the water, they also work to keep soil intact to stop erosion, which supports a baffling number of species!

From 35% of shark species, to turtles, young fish, crustaceans, and endless other smaller critters, mangroves are home. They’re an underground forest nursery, who so many depend on for their own lives.

For a better look at their importance, let’s dive into this short animated video from TED-Ed!

Via: TED-Ed 3

To watch more great videos from TED-Ed, jump to their YouTube channel to see their whole collection!

So, who is helping mangroves survive?

We hear all of the time that critical pieces of our world are suffering, and that can be tough to swallow. But thankfully, in most cases, there are people working tirelessly to make a positive difference whose work we can help.

Nearly 50% of the world’s mangroves have disappeared from agriculture and other human impacts, but Octavio Aburto is one of the people who has been trying to help. He’s a marine biologist, the Director of the Gulf of California Marine Program, a National Geographic explorer, and professional photographer focused on helping Mexico’s oceans.

Here he is in this video brought to us from National Geographic, showing how he’s going about rebuilding the mangrove forests around them.

Via: National Geographic 4

Keep exploring with National Geographic over on their Youtube channel!

How you can help!

The Mangrove Action Project is an organization who works with communities local to mangrove forests as well as research academics, forest and environment departments, policy makers, and international policy and funding groups to preserve and conserve existing mangroves, share resources and knowledge on restoration, and encourage multiple generations to take interest in their local forests.

If you’d like to contribute to their important work, click here.

Sometimes the greatest parts of life come from the saltiest circumstances!

Finding solid ground can be hard, but the mangrove shows us that when you find your footing, you can help many others find theirs, too! Because all of these trees have figured out how to live in these typically harmful circumstances, they’ve managed to make life better for everyone around them—us included.

When you’re feeling like you’re in a hard situation, how can you adapt and make it better for yourself and others?

If we follow the mangrove’s lesson, the benefits will be more than worth it!

For more tips on finding our footing in hard times, check out these articles next:

When Everything Seems Dark, Here’s How to Find Some Light

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Transforming Detroit One Beehive at a Time!

Could vacant lots actually hold the potential to make cities healthier? Take a look at how this couple is transforming Detroit’s many vacant lots into an oasis for urban beekeeping and enriching their community! 

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Socialite to Social Do-Gooder: charity: water Brings Clean Water to the World

A former nightclub promoter is now saving millions of lives by bringing them clean water. He used the skills he honed to develop one of the most successful non-profits we’ve ever seen—and you can have a part in it too. Here’s the story. 

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And as always, my friends, stay open to new possibilities.

Sam

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Notes:

  1. Feller, Candy. “Mangroves.” Smithsonian Ocean, 18 Dec. 2018, ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/mangroves.
  2. Feller, Candy. “Mangroves.” Smithsonian Ocean, 18 Dec. 2018, ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/mangroves.
  3. TED-Ed. “The Sharks That Hunt in Forests – Luka Seamus Wright.” YouTube, 14 June 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YuFNymq_M0. Accessed 28 July 2021.‌
  4. National Geographic. “Measuring Mangroves | Explorers in the Field.” YouTube, 20 May 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIXeDlgx5Rc. Accessed 19 Aug. 2021.‌
Image: Samantha Burns

Sam Burns

Former Editor-In-Chief

Sam wrote and edited hundreds of articles during her time on the Goodness Exchange team from 2016-2021. She wrote about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the Goodness Exchange, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.

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