How Mangroves Can Save the Planet
As we face the urgent challenge of climate change, scientists are actively seeking new ways to preserve and protect our environment.
They tirelessly research and develop new technologies, advocate for sustainable practices, and push governments to adopt ambitious climate targets.
But perhaps the most crucial component of their work lies in pursuing nature-based solutions to combat the crisis.
By strengthening existing natural resources, we can not only mitigate the damage already done but potentially reverse it.
One of the most promising solutions that has emerged is the mangrove ecosystem, a seemingly unlikely hero in the fight to protect our planet.
Shockingly, a recent Twitter poll found that only 59% of people have even heard of mangroves. Despite their limited coverage, these unique habitats have the capacity to save our planet.
They can play a significant role in mitigating the impact of climate change. So let’s explore why and how we can take action to ensure the survival of these important habitats.
The Rapidly Disappearing Mangroves
The media often discusses the need to protect the tropical rainforest, but little attention is given to the rapidly disappearing mangroves, which are a small but important part of our forest ecosystem.
Mangroves are a marvel of nature. These small trees and shrubs grow in saline water along coastlines and have adapted to survive in areas with both fresh and salt water.
Coastal regions in tropical and subtropical areas are unique due to their nutrient-rich soil but low oxygen levels, and mangroves are able to grow in these challenging conditions with slow-moving, sediment-filled water intruding several times a day.
Despite being found in over 100 countries, more than 60% of the world’s mangroves are located in just 15 countries, with more than half of these countries situated in Asia. Sadly, the mangrove ecosystem in these countries is at the highest risk of destruction.
In recent decades, mangroves have been disappearing at an alarming rate, with an estimated annual loss of 3-4% of mangrove cover.1
The major causes for this destruction, according to experts, include deforestation, construction, agriculture, oil spills, aquaculture, pollution, and climate change.
Unfortunately, in many parts of Asia, the need for development and human survival has led to the destruction of mangroves.
For example, in just 20 years, Myanmar has lost more than 60% of its mangrove cover due to development activities such as clearing mangroves to cultivate rice, rubber, and other crops that provide employment to millions.2
It is unfortunate that food security, employment, and development take priority over nature. However, the short-sightedness of humans is endangering the future of the planet.
It is imperative that we recognize the value of mangroves in protecting the environment and take action to protect them.
Role of Mangroves in Saving the Planet
In simple terms, mangroves are essentially swamps and make up only a small portion of the Earth’s surface. With so many pressing global issues, why should we pay attention to these shrubs? However, after learning about their importance, you may change your perspective.
Mangroves – the Ultimate Carbon Sink
The most urgent issue facing us today is global warming, caused by the increase of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
While mangroves make up only 1% of tropical forests worldwide, they are crucial in trapping and storing more greenhouse gases than tropical rainforests!
In fact, experts estimate that mangrove forests can lock up to 5 times more carbon than tropical forests, with carbon and other gases being stored in the soil, branches, and roots of the mangrove trees.3
This unique ability of mangrove forests to store carbon can be attributed to their low soil decomposition and high productivity of green cover.
Flooded soil in mangrove forests acts as a blue carbon sink, storing carbon for thousands of years. This is unlike “green carbon” forests, where trees store carbon while alive but release it during decomposition.
The constantly stagnant water in mangroves ensures that the carbon remains buried in the soil even when the biomass dies, earning the stored carbon the title of Blue Carbon.
To keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, experts suggest that almost one-fifth of greenhouse gas emission cuts must come from the ocean ecosystem.4
Mangrove forests contribute to around half of all carbon storage done by the ocean ecosystem, and by 2050, they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 billion tons.4
The importance of protecting mangroves as a vital tool in mitigating the effects of climate change cannot be overstated.
Mangroves – Protect and Serve Biodiversity
The mangrove forests, with their nutrient-rich water and soil, provide an ideal breeding ground for a diverse range of plant and marine life.
The muddy waters and the thick and twisted roots offer protection to the young of reptiles, mammals, and fish species from predators.
As a Thai conservationist aptly puts it, the mangroves serve as the nursery and kindergarten of the marine ecosystem.
A multitude of marine species, such as crabs, shrimp, snook, tarpon, barracuda, and others, use the mangroves as their nursery.
The juveniles survive on the food found in the seagrass beds and coral reefs, and leave for the open waters when they are mature enough.
Scientists estimate that about three-quarters of all commercial fish species depend on shelter or food provided by the mangrove forests.5
Throughout the world, mangrove forests are home to dozens or even hundreds of rare and endangered species.
For instance, the rare and endangered green sea turtle has found a safe haven in the Caribbean mangroves, more than a hundred rare Mollusca species are found in the Australian mangroves, and dozens of threatened amphibians, birds, and marine life can be seen flourishing in the Florida Everglades National Park, near our Mush More Co headquarters.
Mangroves – a Defense Against Destructive Nature
Mangroves play a vital role in protecting the coastline from severe weather events such as tsunamis, storms, high winds, and flooding.
As climate change continues to trigger extreme weather patterns, the importance of this role has only grown.
Rising sea temperatures have led meteorological departments around the world to predict that the frequency and severity of cyclones could increase. This poses a significant threat to the livelihoods and safety of coastal communities.
Researchers have studied the economic impacts of cyclones on over 2000 coastal communities, including many mangrove regions.
They found that regions with minimal natural protection experienced a loss of 10-22% of economic activity for the next five years after the cyclone.6
In contrast, mangroves act as natural barriers between land and sea, absorbing the shock from high winds and strong waves generated during cyclones.
The dense tree cover slows down winds, the thick roots tame flood waters, and the width of the mangrove forest drastically reduces the impact of storms.
Experts suggest that the cost of man-made barriers against sea events is five times higher and less effective than the protection offered by natural mangrove forests.7
Mangroves – Mitigates the Effect of Climate Change
Many of us who discuss climate change’s impact on weather systems are unaware of its effects on coastal communities. This hits home for us.
The rise in sea temperatures, coral reef loss, and mangrove deforestation result in habitat loss for marine life, which directly impacts fishing communities along the coasts.
The loss of traditional economic opportunities due to climate change leads to an increase in unemployment and crime.
For instance, in Gazi, Kenya, the loss of 80% of mangrove cover significantly reduced fish stocks, thereby affecting the fishing villages in the area.
Unemployed youths turned to criminal activities, causing social upheaval. According to Kenya Wildlife Service, the mangrove reforestation program is already assisting local communities, resulting in a 90% decrease in crime rate within six years.8
This situation is common across the globe. Climate change results in extreme weather events that affect crop yields and push millions of people into poverty.
Unprecedented heatwaves in Asia and Europe last year affected wheat yields, and farmers in India lost a substantial portion of their harvest, pushing them further into debt.
Similarly, historic rainfall and flooding in Pakistan inundated thousands of villages, pushing millions into poverty. Experts attribute the rise in global temperatures and melting Himalayan glaciers to heavy rain and flooding.
Mangroves’ carbon capture function in tropical regions can help keep the temperature rise to a minimum, positively impacting ocean temperatures, preventing glacier melting, and improving crop yields.
Moreover, mangrove trees prevent large amounts of silt carried by rivers from reaching the ocean, maintaining the delicate balance of the ocean ecosystem.
Mangroves – Empowering Women and Communities around the World
Not only do marine life benefit from these salt-loving forests, but also many communities depend on the mangroves for their livelihood.
These forests provide a rich source of protein and other nutrients to the locals, and are essential for the food and economic security of the communities.
In developing countries, mangroves contribute from $30,000 to $55,000 per hectare annually, with goods such as wood and fish enriching the local and national economies.9
Mangrove forests also house many medicinal plants that are largely unexplored. Scientists believe that plants found in such regions can help with various medical conditions from diabetes to inflammation, pain relief, and skin care.
Mangrove regions are ideal tourist attractions, and mangrove tourism isn’t new. Popular activities in the region include bird watching, hiking, and boating.
These scenic hotspots provide employment to hundreds of locals, attract thousands of tourists, and generate millions in revenue for the local economy.
How Are We Preserving and Promoting Mangrove Ecosystems?
The deforestation of mangroves is a cause for concern, but concrete steps are being taken to address this issue.
There are many reasons to be optimistic because mangrove conservation has become a topic of discussion not only among academics and ecologists, but also the general public, politicians, and various international organizations.
Numerous programs are already in progress to protect and regrow these crucial and valuable ecosystems.
Major economic superpowers such as the United States and China are taking mangrove conservation seriously, and many countries have declared mangrove forests as protected zones to prevent any activity that can harm the fragile ecosystem.
Countries have realized that protecting mangroves is not only good for the environment but also financially beneficial in the long run.
According to a report, healthy mangroves can prevent damages caused by hurricanes and save up to $50 billion per year in the United States alone.10
Here are some ways in which you can help protect and regrow mangroves:
- Support organizations that are involved in mangrove conservation.
- Reduce the use of plastics, especially single-use plastic products.
- Participate in mangrove cleanup and planting efforts.
- Donate to NGOs or international organizations involved in mangrove conservation.
- Patronize politicians and businesses that are serious about protecting the environment.
At Mush More Co, it’s our mission to be as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible. It’s the least we can do to thank the planet for these incredible medicinal mushrooms. We believe the health of the planet and people will always surpass profits.
Since day 1, we’ve partnered with 1% for the Planet and are committed to donating at least 1% of our annual sales to SeaTrees, as organization that focuses on ocean reforestation. Our current mangrove restoration project restores 100+ hectares of degraded mangrove forest within the Malindi Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve, a UNESCO Designated Biosphere Area and one of the world’s oldest Marine Protected areas.
When you purchase a bottle of our Mushie Organic Gummies, you plant a SeaTree in Kenya and help the planet fight climate change! This is why we are Mush More Than a Vitamin.
There’s a famous saying that goes, “Everything you are searching for is already within you.” The solution to our climate problem is right in front of us, and it comes in the form of mangroves.
These often under-appreciated trees are the unsung heroes of our planet, fighting on many fronts to protect the environment.
They safeguard the coastline from the raging seas, provide shelter to marine life, boost biodiversity, act as carbon sinks, and empower local communities.
Without the revival of the mangrove ecosystem, any plan to protect our planet is grossly incomplete. It’s time for us to unite, mount a global effort, and plant more of these magical trees for the sake of our own future.
Eat Mushies. Plant a SeaTree. Save the Seas.
- Bryan-Brown, D.N. et al. (2020) Global trends in mangrove forest fragmentation, Nature News. Nature Publishing Group. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-63880-1
- Improved estimates of mangrove cover and change reveal catastrophic. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab666d
- Chatting, M. et al. (2022) Future mangrove carbon storage under climate change and deforestation, Frontiers. Frontiers. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2022.781876/full
- Hoegh-Guldberg, O. et al. (2019) Turning the tide: Ocean-based solutions could close emission gap by 21%, World Resources Institute. Available at: https://www.wri.org/insights/turning-tide-ocean-based-solutions-could-close-emission-gap-21
- The importance of mangrove forests: Diverse ecosystems: AMNH. American Museum of Natural History. Available at: https://www.amnh.org/explore/videos/biodiversity/mangroves-the-roots-of-the-sea/why-mangroves-matter
- Mangroves shelter coastal economic activity from cyclones | PNAS. Available at: https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1820067116
- Biomimicry of mangroves teaches how to improve coastal barriers - ansys. Available at: https://www.ansys.com/blog/biomimicry-mangroves-improve-coastal-erosion-coastal-barriers
- Mundey, S. (2021) Toko Telo rewind: What does best practice in community-led mangrove management look like? , Blue Ventures. Available at: https://blueventures.org/toko-telo-rewind-what-does-best-practice-in-community-led-mangrove-management-look-like/
- Wcmc: 5 facts about mangroves and why we must protect them - UNEP-WCMC, UNEP. Available at: https://www.unep-wcmc.org/news/5-facts-about-mangroves-and-why-we-must-protect-them
- Michael Beck, R.professor (1970) Protecting mangroves can prevent billions of dollars in global flooding damage every year, METRO Metropolitan Digital. Available at: https://metropolitandigital.com/the-conversation/4801-protecting-mangroves-can-prevent-billions-of-dollars-in-global-flooding-damage-every-year