Mangroves are found primarily in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. They are a diverse group of unrelated trees, palms, shrubs, vines and ferns that share a common ability to live in waterlogged, salty soils subjected to regular flooding.
Their extensive root systems and canopy form a nursery and habitat for countless species of fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Many experts estimate that up to 75% of commercial fish species spend a portion of their lives being protected by mangroves.
Mangrove Destruction and Restoration
Over the past 25 years, as much as 35% of the world's remaining mangrove forests have been destroyed. Most of the destruction has been caused by human activities such as clearing the land for shrimp farms but natural destruction can also occur from large hurricanes, tsunamis or changes in hydrological conditions.
Large-scale mangrove restoration projects have sprung up in many areas around the world such as Southeast Asia where shrimp farming has taken a huge toll on mangroves as well as here in Central America. One example is a project on Roatan's sister island of Guanaja, whose mangroves were decimated by Category 5 Hurricane Mitch in 1995.
Above water, mangroves serve as prime feeding and nesting grounds for hundreds of species. The white-crowned pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala) is one of these species.
A Few Environmental Benefits of the Mangroves:
· Protection from strong winds and waves: Mangroves' protective buffer zone helps shield coastlines from storm damage and wave action, minimizing damage to property and losses of life from hurricanes and storms.
· Soil stabilization and erosion protection: The stability mangroves provide is essential for preventing shoreline erosion. By acting as buffers catching materials washed downstream, they help stabilize land elevation. In regions where these coastal fringe forests have been cleared, tremendous problems of erosion and siltation have arisen.
· Trapping of carbon dioxide: Mangroves absorb CO2 and store carbon in their sediments, thereby helping to lessen the impact of global warming.
Mahogany Bay's Contribution
On a smaller scale, we have begun our own efforts to restore mangroves to our shoreline. The plants you see growing up through the white pvc pipes here in this little cove as well as along the shoreline adjacent to the north pier are red mangroves (Rhizophora Mangle). The PVC will be cut and removed once they are firmly established.
In areas of land less prone to flooding behind the red groves, we have planted another species commonly known as White Mangrove (Laguncularia Racemosa). To date, we have planted over 400 Red and 180 White Mangroves and are dedicated to continually plant mangroves from our nursery.
For more information on Mangrove restoration worldwide, we recommend the Mangrove Action Project with information at the following website: http://www.mangroveactionproject.org