Mangrove trees are usually found by the sea in tropical areas. This flora can be found all across the world, it grows in at least there are 118 countries and territories in the world whether in tropical and subtropical area. Indonesia is the number one habitat for Mangrove with more than 23,000 km2 tree cover in Mangrove forest and more than 44,000 km2 tree cover in mangrove biome.
These trees are considered as tough trees since they can live in an area where no other trees can. Mangrove forests are considered as ones of the most biologically important ecosystem in the world as they are home to various types other living creatures.
However, people tend to give less attention to them compared to other kinds of forests. Indeed the variety of species in the mangrove forest may look less attractive than the species of creatures found in other kind of forest, but underneath their “less attractive look”, this ecosystem contributes no less than the others.
How Mangrove Survive the Extreme Condition
The Rhizophoraceae has Dona a set of adaptations to make it possible to live in such extreme area where other species of flora may find it difficult to live. There are at least 3 critical issue that they have overcome to be able to survive.
The first is the adaptation to low amount of oxygen. Unlike other trees which only have one way to breathe, mangrove breathe in variety of ways. In addition to the usual way a plant absorb oxygen, some mangrove breath through their small roots named pneumatophores which are grown stick up out of the soil. These roots are the flora’s breathing tube and take oxygen directly from the air.
The second is the adaptation to salty water, which is often hundreds of times saltier than other plants could tolerate. They are known to be able to filter the salt in the water they live on with two mechanisms. They firstly filter the saltwater using their roots and distribute the less salty water they need all over their bodies. If the water is still too salty, they will secrete the excessive amount of salt through the salt glands in their leaves.
The third critical issue that the mangrove faced in order to survive is the fresh water consumption. Like mentioned above, mangrove trees have its mechanisms to filter salt form water. However, that process needs a lot of effort, so instead of doing more effort to fulfill its needs of water, the mangrove trees can save the fresh water they collected. They can restrict the opening of their pores on the leaves (stomata) to save the water they have collected from vaporizing.
The Importance of Mangrove Forest
Like mentioned before, mangrove forests are considered as ones of the most productive ecosystem. They provide shelter to various living creatures which cannot be found in other areas, they provide timber and plant products, they protect the coastal area, and recently people start to consider mangrove forest as a tourist attraction.
Mangrove forests are the habitat of large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species. The forests are also play an important part as nurseries to many kinds of coral reef fish. Some of the animals found in the mangrove forest also cannot be found elsewhere. Those featured creatures are mudflat filler crab, mudskipper, spectacled cayman, and mangrove tree crab.
Not only important to sea creatures, in mangrove forests live various kind of mammals, reptiles, and birds. Some report even witnessed Bengal Tigers wandering around mangrove forest in India.
The mangrove trees alone also serve humans with its numerous benefits. It can give us timber and plant products because of its famous feature that cannot rot and resistant to insects. People in coastal area often use the woods for construction material or as fuel for fire. The mangrove leaves may also be used as animal fodder which then increases its value.
On the other hand, mangrove forests also protect us from the danger of erosion. Its dense roots, stabbed firmly into the earth, can prevent the erosion by filtering sediments from flowing into the larger water bodies. Hence, the forests also protect coral reefs and seaweed meadows from the flown sediments.
Mangrove In Indonesia
As a country that provides home for more than 22% mangrove on earth, Indonesia plays important part in providing the benefit of mangrove forests in earth. In Indonesia, mangrove forests are famous for its latter function. Kids in school are taught to honor the mangrove forests because they can protect people from the erosion, which may cause flood.
Kids are also taught that mangrove forests play important part in fighting the climate change. It has been proven that mangrove forest possibly contributes more than expected in fighting the global warming. A study has revealed that in Indonesia alone, about 30 million tons of carbon emission could be reduced from avoided mangrove conversion each year.
Further study done by Alongi, et al. (2016) even indicates that seaweed and mangrove ecosystem in Indonesia alone store around 3.4 billion metric tons of carbon. How can people ignore that incredible potential?
The Unsung Hero
Looking on the benefits of mangrove forest, maybe we should give more attention to them. They protect us from the danger of erosion, they give shelter to little creatures around, they give timber and plant products to people, they even help us to fight our biggest problem: global warming.
Deforestation of mangrove forests for other purposes such as resorts, housings, and other construction are their biggest threads nowadays. But we can fight this by education and direct action. We can educate about the importance of this near coast ecosystem to our daily lives to the kids and let the next generation takes part in saving the mangrove forest.
But if you think that kind of thing takes too long, you can just directly start a direct act by planting mangrove trees. Nowadays, there are many foundations who want to protect the mangrove ecosystem around the world that you can find on the internet. Time to start praising the work of this unsung hero!