MANGROVES

Mangrove forests occur along sheltered ocean coastlines throughout the tropics and stabilise coastlines and protect them from storms and tsunami's. Mangrove's act as nursery areas for local fisheries, improve water quality, and support many species of animals and plants.

Mangrove forests are among the most carbon rich forests in the tropics. Therefore, mangroves have a large potential to help reduce climate change.

The area of mangroves is rapidly getting less as a result of land clearing, aquaculture expansion, over harvesting, and development. The loss of nearly half the area of mangroves in the world over the past 50 years, and a current loss of 1-2% predicts that hardly any mangroves will exist in 100 years or less (reference).

The scientific names for the mangroves differ greatly in genera (Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa).  This is because the word "mangrove" indicates an ecological rather than a taxonomical grouping; when we speak of mangroves we are speaking of tropical, salt-tolerant trees that grow along the shore. 

Mangrove trees tend to form zones along shorelines. Furthest inland are the white mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) who's seeds are the smallest and are carried the furthest inland.  Neither aerial prop roots or pneumatophores are usually visible (but either may be present if conditions warrant; the pneumatophores take the form of peg roots). Like the black mangrove, the white mangrove excretes salts on the leaf surface. Black mangrove seeds are small and are washed further inland by tides.  Red mangrove seeds are much larger than either of the other two and simply aren't carried very far inland.  Thus, each mangrove species has a seed that is adapted to be carried to the appropriate habitat for the tree to grow.

Because the Belizean coastline is subject to violent hurricanes and consequent storm surges the zonation of mangroves is not consistent, especially on the keys. On the keys storm damage, and moving sands and substrate, often result in a mosaic of mangrove species rather than zonation.

The nation of Belize boasts the highest overall percentage of forest cover of any of the Central American countries. In terms of Belize's mangrove cover - which assumes the form not only of mangrove 'forest', but also of scrubs and savannas, among others - a 2010 satellite-based study of Belize's mangroves by the World Wildlife Fund and the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean found, in 2010, mangroves covered some 184,548 acres (74,684 hectares) or 3.4% of Belize's territory. In 1980, by contrast, mangrove cover stood at 188,417 acres (76,250 hectares) - also 3.4% of Belize's territory, although based on the work of mangrove researcher Simon Zisman, Belize's mangrove cover in 1980 was estimated to represent 98.7% of the precolonial extent of those ecosystems. Belize's mangrove cover in 2010 was thus estimated to represent 96.7% of the precolonial cover.

Assessing changes in Belize's mangrove cover over a 30-year period was possible because of Belize's participation in the Regional Visualization and Monitoring System, a regional observatory jointly implemented by CATHALAC, RCMRD, ICIMOD, NASA, USAID, and other partners. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangrove#Central_America_and_Caribbean

SEA LEVEL RISE

"In addition to direct losses of mangroves, land-use activities will also affect mangroves responses to predicted sea-level rise.

Under current climate trends, sea level is projected to rise 18–79cm from 1999–2099 giving an average rate of ∼1.8–7.9 mm per year. Coastal developments that prevent the inland migration of mangroves, for example, roads, infrastructure, and inland uses that alter sediment and water inputs will result in the inability of mangroves to migrate inland with rising water levels and the loss of more mangrove area.

Landscape buffers for accommodating inland migration and to prevent loss of mangroves from pollution and other threats are needed for adaptation to rising sea levels.

CARBON STORAGE

Mangroves are among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics. Mangrove deforestation generates 12 times as much carbon as the same amount of land forest, resulting in around 10% of emissions from deforestation globally, despite mangroves covering only 0.7% of tropical forest area. Clearing, drainage, and/or conversion to aquaculture destroys the mangrove trees and also decreases the carbon storage in mangrove soil.

http://mangroveactionproject.blogspot.com/2011/04/carbon-in-mangroves-donato-et-al-2011.html Nature Geoscience, 4, 293–297. (2011). doi:10.1038/ngeo1123

PLANTING

Mangrove propagules and seedlings can be started in 3 - 5 gallon iron buckets, and then after a year set up on shallow banks and grass flats; where they flourish. Mangroves don't require seawater to start. On sites with wave action the buckets can be joined to stabilise them. This method has been used independently by local businesses , school, and conservation groups to stabilized islets, marina entrances, and exposed beaches.

PROTECTION

Most traditional communities have protected their mangroves. Mangroves provide fish, protect the coastline, and give shelter for boats during storms, and especially during hurricanes.

It is important that governments enforce laws to protect mangroves as specified in development and protection plans, and that major exceptions to mangrove protection are only granted in circumstances of national need. It is also important that governments publicises the benefits of mangroves.

B'alam Ja Way has an ephemeral swamp, that although isolated from the sea, has large red mangroves that we are protecting.