Mangrove forests occur along sheltered ocean coastlines
throughout the tropics and stabilise coastlines and
protect them from storms and tsunami's. Mangrove's act as nursery areas for local fisheries,
improve water quality, and support many species of animals and
Mangrove forests are among
the most carbon rich forests in the tropics. Therefore, mangroves have a large potential
to help reduce climate change.
The area of mangroves is rapidly
getting less as a result of land clearing, aquaculture expansion, over harvesting, and development.
The loss of nearly half the area of mangroves in the world over the past 50 years, and a current
loss of 1-2% predicts that hardly any mangroves will exist in 100 years or less (reference).
The scientific names for the
mangroves differ greatly in genera (Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia
germinans, Laguncularia racemosa). This is because the word "mangrove" indicates
an ecological rather than a taxonomical grouping; when we speak of mangroves we are speaking
of tropical, salt-tolerant trees that grow along the shore.
Mangrove trees tend to form zones
along shorelines. Furthest inland are the white mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) who's seeds are the smallest and are
carried the furthest inland. Neither aerial prop roots or pneumatophores are usually
visible (but either may be present if conditions warrant; the pneumatophores take the form of peg
roots). Like the black mangrove, the white mangrove excretes salts on the leaf surface.
Black mangrove seeds are small and are washed further inland by
tides. Red mangrove seeds are much larger than either of the
other two and simply aren't carried very far inland. Thus, each mangrove species
has a seed that is adapted to be carried to the appropriate habitat for the tree to
Because the Belizean coastline is
subject to violent hurricanes and consequent storm surges the zonation of mangroves is not
consistent, especially on the keys. On the keys storm damage, and moving sands and substrate, often
result in a mosaic of mangrove species rather than zonation.
nation of Belize boasts the highest overall percentage of forest cover of any of the Central
American countries. In terms of Belize's mangrove cover - which assumes the form not only of
mangrove 'forest', but also of scrubs and savannas, among others - a 2010 satellite-based study of
Belize's mangroves by the World Wildlife Fund and the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin
America and the Caribbean found, in 2010, mangroves covered some 184,548 acres (74,684 hectares) or
3.4% of Belize's territory. In 1980, by contrast, mangrove cover stood at 188,417 acres (76,250
hectares) - also 3.4% of Belize's territory, although based on the work of mangrove researcher
Simon Zisman, Belize's mangrove cover in 1980 was estimated to represent 98.7% of the precolonial
extent of those ecosystems. Belize's mangrove cover in 2010 was thus estimated to represent 96.7%
of the precolonial cover.
Assessing changes in Belize's mangrove cover over a 30-year period was possible
because of Belize's participation in the Regional Visualization and Monitoring System, a regional
observatory jointly implemented by CATHALAC, RCMRD, ICIMOD, NASA, USAID, and other partners.
"In addition to direct losses of
mangroves, land-use activities will also affect mangroves responses to predicted sea-level
Under current climate trends, sea
level is projected to rise 18–79cm from 1999–2099 giving an average rate of ∼1.8–7.9 mm per year.
Coastal developments that prevent the inland migration of mangroves, for example, roads,
infrastructure, and inland uses that alter sediment and water inputs will result in the inability
of mangroves to migrate inland with rising water levels and the loss of more mangrove
Landscape buffers for accommodating inland migration and to prevent loss of
mangroves from pollution and other threats are needed for adaptation to rising sea levels.
Mangroves are among the most
carbon-rich forests in the tropics. Mangrove deforestation generates 12 times as much carbon as the
same amount of land forest, resulting in around 10% of emissions from deforestation globally,
despite mangroves covering only 0.7% of tropical forest area. Clearing, drainage, and/or conversion
to aquaculture destroys the mangrove trees and also decreases the carbon storage in mangrove
Nature Geoscience, 4, 293–297. (2011).
Mangrove propagules and
seedlings can be started in 3 - 5 gallon iron buckets, and then after a year set up on shallow
banks and grass flats; where they flourish. Mangroves don't require seawater to start. On sites
with wave action the buckets can be joined to stabilise them. This method has been used
independently by local businesses , school, and conservation groups to stabilized islets, marina
entrances, and exposed beaches.
Most traditional communities have
protected their mangroves. Mangroves provide fish, protect the coastline, and give shelter for
boats during storms, and especially during hurricanes.
It is important that governments
enforce laws to protect mangroves as specified in development and protection plans, and that major
exceptions to mangrove protection are only granted in circumstances of national need. It is also
important that governments publicises the benefits of mangroves.
B'alam Ja Way has an ephemeral
swamp, that although isolated from the sea, has large red mangroves that we are