The Canopy Project

The Importance of Mangrove Forests

Lining the calm, blue water, green trees with intricate roots stand out and dig deep, pointing to the fish swimming by and guiding the way to a forest full of an array of animals. Sounds like the opening shot of a movie, but this is a reality. The beautiful mangrove forests, found in various continents, are a critical source for communities and are home to a vast number of species. 

Mangroves are trees and shrubs with characteristically intricate, exposed roots that form a type of tropical forest typically located near bodies of water. More importantly, mangroves host the most diverse, beautiful, and resource-abundant ecosystems in the world. However, the rise in deforestation and the looming danger of sea-level rise have threatened the mangroves habitat, putting the area’s biodiversity as well as local communities at risk.

Here are five reasons as to why mangrove ecosystems are important along with the consequences that can occur if these areas are lost. 

1. Mangroves act as carbon sinks. 

Due to mangroves’ roots which anchor the plants into underwater sediment, nutrients and organic material from the tidal waves enriches the soils, giving mangroves the ability to store carbon, otherwise known as blue carbon. Mangrove forests are able to store up to four times more carbon than other tropical forests. Cutting down mangroves will only result in a mass release of carbon into the atmosphere.

2. Mangrove forests are biodiversity hotspots. 

Mangrove ecosystems are home to a myriad of species from marine life (fish, crab, shellfish, sea turtle, etc) to birds. The habitat serves as a nesting, breeding, and nursing ground for the plethora of local wildlife. As more and more mangrove forests are cleared, valuable habitat is lost and species such as the Bengal tiger are at risk of extinction. 

3. Mangroves improve and maintain local water quality. 

Mangroves’ network of roots and lush vegetation filters pollutants and traps sediments, preventing contamination of the waterways and protecting the habitats and the species within them. Local groups and those that live near the rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water nearby are also protected by the trees’ maintenance of the water quality.  

4. Mangrove forests double as coastal protection. 

Mangrove forests act as a physical buffer between marine and terrestrial communities. The trees protect the coastlines from severe weather events as well as slow down erosion. The mangroves provide valuable protection for those nearby communities that are prone to storms and are at risk of sea-level rise. 

5. Mangroves provide essential resources for people. 

The mangrove forests hold a variety of resources ranging from leaves used in tea and livestock feed to plant extracts used as medicine. Millions of people rely on the mangroves for food, income, and wellbeing, particularly, the forest waters provide an abundance of fish for local fishermen to sell and maintain financial stability. To estimate, 80% of the global fish catch relies on mangrove forests either directly or indirectly through the support of terrestrial and marine food webs. 

The mangrove forests are a beautiful gift of nature. Not only are the forests a wondrous sight to behold, the benefits and resources provided are immeasurable. EARTHDAY.ORG’s campaign, The Canopy Project, works towards safeguarding the mangrove forests in Bangladesh and India by planting trees, strengthening the local communities, and rehabilitating the areas directly affected by the effects of climate change. By donating to The Canopy Project, you can help protect these important mangrove ecosystems as they are a safe haven for the wildlife and local people who call the forest their home.