Saturday, April 14, 2012

Climate Matters. M is for Mangroves

This post is for M in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Mangroves are often seen to be an expendable part of the marine environment. They don't have the majesty of towering Mountain Ash or the dramatic bark of Ghost Gums or Snow Gums. Westernport Bay in southern Victoria is home to the southernmost stands of our Earth's mangroves - the area is listed under the International Ramsar Convention for protection of migratory birds.

These mangroves are squat, insignificant, slightly muddy smelling and seem to have small crabs perpetually running around the air roots. If you happen to carelessly step off the nearby packed earth, you'll sink to your knees in none too pleasant mud which is difficult to remove. There is a strange musical sound as air pockets pop in the greyish mud.
Mangroves at Tooradin on Westernport Bay. Victoria
So, why bother agitating for them to be saved when developers move in to reclaim land or sea for refineries, housing, harbours or fish farming?

Mangroves are a salt tolerant plant and are concentrated along many coastal areas. They store a huge amount of carbon, up to 4 times more than tropical rain-forests, so when they’re cleared, carbon, which is a green house gas, is released into the atmosphere. Their complex root systems which anchor the plants into the underwater sediment and slow down the incoming tidal waters, allow organic and inorganic materials to settle and decay extremely slowly, making them in effect, a high carbon storage tank.

We need mangroves to store carbon, not to release it. 

Many animals and other creatures are dependant on mangroves to survive and are threatened with extensive clearing. Crabs, birds, insects and fish may be reliant on each other for survival, and many have adapted to the salty environment and inter-tidal changes. Mangroves provide safe breeding grounds for fish and their leaves break down providing nutrients for a variety of other creatures.
Mangroves at Tooradin on Westernport Bay. Victoria
Increasingly in Indonesia and Thailand, mangroves are being cleared for aquaculture. Many varieties of imported prawn (shrimp) are farmed in ponds and tanks, which can be fed from already stressed and overfished wild populations. Unfortunately, environmental regulations may not be stringent, so there is the potential for untreated run off and pollution being released into the already degraded local areas.

Rising sea levels, extreme weather events and storm surges impact more dramatically when the mangrove buffer has been cleared, destabilising the sand and mud. Sound planning guidelines need to be implemented to safeguard communities along these important coastlines.

By protecting mangroves, we not only capture carbon, prevent erosion, and safeguard communities, but encourage fish breeding and maintain the habitat of endangered and migratory birds, local reptiles and mammals which are threatened with extinction if the current rate of mangrove loss continues.

Last year I wrote about Mind, Mates, Movement and Manipulation for M for my theme of workplace bullying. Here.


Anonymous said...

Mangroves..small but mighty...all life is important to the planet.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. the recent programmes on tv I watched highlighting the Great Barrier Reef, its lagoon and the mangrove swamps - how essential the whole is to life in the Ocean .. and to so many species - let alone the land protection these great forests offer ... it showed areas that had been cleared - and we could see the differences already apparent ..

Essential mangroves .. cheers Hilary

David Macaulay said...

It is really sad re mangrove loss - nice theme for the challenge, Sue

Jennifer Lane said...

I'd never even heard of mangroves! Thank you for the education.

Christine said...

It's sad when people consider anything in nature expendable. Scientists used to think that the thyroid, tonsils, and appendix were all unnecessary. Now they know they were wrong. Hopefully, people will realize how important these trees are before they are gone.

I'm A-Z blog hopping. Nice to "meet" you!

Coffee in the Garden
In the Care of the Great Physician

Charmaine Clancy said...

Mangroves don't get a lot of support because they're muddy and people want everywhere to be sandy beaches. Great post.
Wagging Tales

sue said...

Delores, yes it is, and so often ignored.

Hilary, what is being done to the Great Barrier Reef is criminal. Why the world isn't up in arms I don't know. Mining interests seem to have got a stranglehold and are devastating the most beautiful environment. It breaks my heart. The new Queensland government is pro mining and anti environment, so I'm not confident of the outcome.

David, Mangroves aren't sexy, that's all there is to it!

Jennifer, really!? Gosh, shows how easy it is to assume people know what your'e talking about! thanks for dropping by.

Christine, it's fascinating how we live and learn.

Charmaine, yes, sandy beaches win out any day - but when the mangroves get removed, the beaches get washed away too.

Bushman said...

I love the Mangroves. I did a small tour of them in Florida and fell in love with them. I posted a blog a year or so ago about them. They were so mysterious to me and I immediately started thinking of a book where the bad guys hid out in the mangroves and so the theme to the blog by the way!

Betty Alark said...

Hi, Sue!

Great history lesson and issue of concern!

Are the people that are responsible for destroying them aware of the devestation they are creating? Is it being done out of ignorance or not really caring.

It seems to me if a person is aware of the long and short term effects of their actions that they would reconsider their acts; after all it has a snowball effect and effects everyone; even the culprits.

Thanks for sharing the information!

Liza said...

I never knew all this about mangroves. Good lesson!

susan said...

Great post - good to find another environmental a-z. Such a lot of stuff to get across. I hadn't realised that mangroves had such useful qualities.

Ian Travers said...

Ohh.. you mean MANGROVES, I thought you meant MANGOES.

sue said...

Bushman, thankyou. Feel free to drop back with a link if you like, that'd be nice. I think the bad guys would smell a bit off to be honest, but I like the idea.

Betty, Hi! Yes, they've had it explained to them, but some people only want imported white sand and brick retaining walls. I find it hard to understand the logic.

Liza, glad to have shared some new information

Susan, it was when researching that I found out so much fascinating information. I'm pleased to have been able to share it.

Ian - LOL - if they were mangoes I doubt anyone would want them to be removed ;)