Mangrove forests are intertidal forests found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. They offer a range of ecosystem goods and services including fuel wood, food and timber, climate regulation and cultural services (UNEP 2014). They are highly productive ecosystems that contribute to between 10 coastal sediment carbon storage (Alongi, 2014).
Mangroves are often perceived as nothing more than muddy wastelands promoting the spread of diseases (Horowitz et al., 2012). In reality, people can be highly dependent on mangrove ecosystem services and therefore suffer when mangroves are degraded. Mangroves are extremely important coastal resources, which are vital to our socio-economic development. Mangrove ecosystem plays socio-economic and ecological roles in our community.
Socio-Economic Importance of Mangrove Ecosystem
Given the diversity of life inhabiting mangrove systems, and their proximity in many cases to other tourist attractions such as coral reefs and sandy beaches, it is perhaps surprising that only a few countries have started to tap into the tourism potential of their mangrove forests.
Provision of Fish:
A large number of commercially important fish species such as snapper, mullet, wrasse, parrotfish, sharks and rays utilise mangroves during all or part of their lives, with the mangrove providing critical food, shelter and refuge functions. Mangrove habitats support these fisheries; from subsistence foraging in the mangrove itself, to industrialized, commercial offshore fisheries. Mangrove fisheries play an important role in ensuring people’s well-being, as they provide an accessible source of protein.
Screening the Solar UV‐B Radiation:
Mangroves possess mechanisms to deal with intense sunlight rays and solar UV-B radiation. For example, Avicennia species grows in areas endowed with high sunlight, hot and dry conditions and the species are well adapted to arid zones. Rhizophoracean species show greater solar UV-B tolerance than do other mangrove species.
Reducing the “Green House Effects”:
Mangroves are known to remove CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. This perhaps reduces the problems that go with the ‘greenhouse gases and global warming. They fix greater amounts of CO2 unit area, than the phytoplankton do in the tropical oceans (Kathiresan and Bingham, 2001). Mangroves are capable of accumulating and storing carbon in the soil in large quantities.
Minimizing the Fury of Cyclones:
Mangrove forests protect all types of coastal communities from the fury of cyclones and storms. Tropical cyclones (also called hurricanes and typhoons) can cause loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure.
Controlling of Flood:
Mangrove systems offer protection to the coastline against the flood, which are often caused by tidal waves or due to heavy rainfall associated with storms. The ability of mangroves in flood control is due to the response of their root system to have a larger spread out in areas prone to tidal inundation, and their roots to promote sedimentation. Besides flood control, the mangroves prevent the entry of seawater inland and thus protecting the underground water systems, forming a source of drinking water supply to coastal population.
Trapping the Sediments:
One of the important functions of mangroves is trapping of sediment, and thus acting as sinks to the suspended sediments. The mangrove trees catch sediments by their complex aerial root systems and thus function as land expanders.
Mangroves can help stabilize shorelines and mitigate coastal erosion by reducing the height and energy of wave, minimizing erosive forces acting on the sediment and preventing it from being carried away from the shore.
Water Quality Maintenance:
Mangroves maintain surrounding water quality by filtering riverine and tidal waters of sediments, minerals, contaminants and nutrients. Mangrove trees and associated plants have a high tolerance for a wide range of salinities and contamination levels and perform an effective service in bio filtration and waste processing.
Recreational, Spiritual and Cultural Values:
Mangroves, sometimes in connection with adjacent terrestrial forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs, provide a variety of aesthetic and recreational experiences and cultural and artistic inspiration
Mangroves forest has the ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Much like the wetlands of the inlands and the boreal forests of the temperate climates, mangrove systems are referred to as carbon sinks.
Regional Director, ECO Sustainers