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What is a mangrove and its characteristics

A very typical type of ecosystem in tropical and subtropical areas is the mangrove. In addition, it is a very important ecosystem for the conservation of various species. However, it is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, so there are measures to protect them.

In this AgroCorrn article, we will see what a mangrove is and what its characteristics are , in addition to talking about the flora and fauna of this ecosystem, its great importance and the environmental problems that most affect mangroves.

What are mangroves and their characteristics

Mangroves are a type of coastal and humid ecosystems that are very representative of tropical and subtropical zones , especially in swampy and flooded regions. They are very rich ecosystems in terms of biodiversity, which arise from the close contact between the terrestrial and maritime environments, that is, seas and rivers.

In addition, they are very important ecosystems for our own well-being and for the health of the planet, as they provide important environmental services. They play a fundamental role in the conservation of various plant and animal species (many in danger) and help to stop the wear or erosion of the soils , fixing the soils and preventing sediment from accumulating on the beaches.

The largest number of mangroves are found throughout the American continent , but we can also find them in Africa, Asia or Oceania . For example, in Brazil we can find mangroves along the entire coastline (from north to south) and it is the country in the world that has the largest extension of mangroves, occupying an approximate area of 20 thousand km 2 .

The mangrove tree

The mangrove (in Guaraní ‘twisted tree’) is the predominant tree species in the mangroves . These are trees that live along the entire coast, rivers and estuaries and keep part of their trunks under salty water. They are very resistant trees that thrive in muddy, sandy, peaty soils, in very brackish conditions (with water up to 100 times more salty) and hot, which would kill most plant species. Part of this resistance is due to the fact that these trees have a large number of adaptations, such as a filtration system that keeps a large amount of salt out, a root system that manages to keep the mangrove upright despite the changing sediments on which they settle. and systems that help their roots to seek existing oxygen on the surface (the amount of oxygen in the ecosystem is limited).

The fruits of these trees are known as propagules and are spear-shaped. This shape is important, since it allows them to bury themselves in the substrate when they fall on it or to float long times and distances until they find land on which to settle.

Mangrove types

There are several types of mangrove tree :

  • White mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa)
  • Jeli or gray mangrove (Conocarpus erectus)
  • Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans)
  • Red mangrove (Rhizhophora mangle)

Although these are the main ones, there are around 70 species of mangrove trees . Here you can check the Mangrove species at risk of extinction.

Mangrove flora and fauna

The mangrove ecosystems have a high biodiversity of species . Some of which are unique to these ecosystems.

They present a characteristic fauna, due to the special conditions in the tides and other factors in these ecosystems. The fauna of the mangroves is made up of a large number of animals such as:

  • Crustaceans
  • Fishes
  • Mollusks
  • Birds
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Mammals

For example, we can find crabs, shrimp, oysters, crocodiles, cobras, lizards, turtles, marmosets, sea lions, herons, vultures, seagulls, hawks or earthworms.

Together, the fauna of these ecosystems constitutes one of the most productive and complex in the intermediate zone between terrestrial and marine ecosystems .

With regard to the flora of the mangroves , due to the conditions of these muddy environments, plant species that we call mangroves (described above) stand out and there are mainly three species of mangrove tree :

  • White mangrove ( Laguncularia racemosa ).
  • Black mangrove ( Avicena germinans ).
  • Red mangrove ( Rhizophora mangle ).

Why are mangroves important?

Mangroves are very important ecosystems for the following reasons:

  • They produce large amounts of organic matter such as litter and other types.
  • They retain sediments, filter the waters that supply the water tables and retain waste and toxic substances that are directed towards the sea.
  • They desalinate the waters entering the mainland, forming reservoirs in the interior areas.
  • They protect coastal areas from erosion by water and wind and retain sand on beaches.
  • They mitigate climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases.
  • They stabilize the local climate.
  • They are a source of resources for the communities.

Main environmental problems of mangroves

As we have seen, mangroves are very important ecosystems on the planet, but also one of the most threatened in the world. The main environmental problems that affect mangroves are:

It is for this reason that it was necessary to propose laws that especially protect these ecosystems. Thus, law n ° 4,771 approved on September 15, 1965 places mangroves as a permanent preservation area (APP) and on July 26 the International Day for the Defense of Mangroves is celebrated .

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