Mangroves, the voiceless guards protecting marine and human life need help

5 Jul

Malak ShaherPublished:05-07-2010

 

A vibrant mangrove from Kamaran Island untouched by human activities

TY phtot malak shaher

 

 

Mangrove trees, which in Arabic are known as qurm or Al-Shora, grow extensively in Yemen around the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.

These trees, which help to protect marine life and reduce global warming, are said to have decreased worldwide by 20% since 1980, according to mongabay.com an environmental science and conservation news sites.

Mangroves are trees and shrubs that grow in saline coastal habitats in the tropics and subtropics mainly between latitudes of 25° N and 25° S. The common mangrove grows to about 9m tall and bears short thick leathery leaves on short stems and has pale yellow flowers.

Critical situation of mangroves in Mocka
Mocka is one of the 29 mangrove localities along the Red Sea coast in Yemen, according PERSGA an intergovernmental organization for the conservation of coastal and marine environments in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

In May 2009, a visit was conducted by Yemeni plant experts from the Ministry of Agriculture to mangroves in the north and south of Mocka, Taiz governorate.

The environmental situation in Mocka is now critical as the trees are being harvested on a destructively large scale. The locals assume that using wood from these trees facilitates their lives, but they have no idea of the long term problems that over harvesting is going to cause them. They use the wood in constructing buildings, making coal and building boats.

Wadi Al-Mulk’s mangroves in particular have been dying at a disturbing rate. A plan to investigate the causes of this die back is critically needed, according to Abdulwali Al-Khulaidi, one of the experts at the ministry.

The making of salt in these areas accelerates the destruction of the mangroves. The locals dig holes and fill them with saline water, waiting for the sun to dry off the water so they can collect the salt. When the holes are near the mangroves trees, it deprives the trees of the water they need to survive. Over time, the sea line has receded up to one kilometer from the trees creating localized drought conditions, according to the experts’ findings.

Mangrove’s tangled roots

 

Water receding has left the mangrove roots dry creating a localized drought in Mocka area.

Photo by Abdulwali Al-Khulaidi

 

 

Mangroves grow in dense thickets or forests along tidal estuaries, in salt marshes, and on muddy coasts. The mangrove fruit is a conical reddish brown berry. Its single seed germinates inside the fruit while it is still on the tree, forming a large, pointed primary root that quickly anchors the seedling in the mud when the fruit drops.

Mangroves produce aerial roots from their trunks and branches that become embedded in the mud and form a tangled network. Once they are secure in the mud, they send up new shoots. These serve both as a prop for the tree and as a means of aerating the root system. Such roots also form a base for the deposit of silt and other material carried by the tides, and thus land is built up which is gradually invaded by other vegetation.

Once established, mangrove roots provide an oyster habitat and slow water flow, thereby enhancing soil deposition in areas where it is already occurring. Mangrove removal disturbs these underlying sediments, often creating problems of trace metal contamination of seawater.

Guardians of marine and human life 
It has been cited that mangroves can help buffer against the effects of tsunamis, cyclones, and other storms. An Indian village in Tamil Nadu was protected from tsunami destruction by a kilometer wide belt of trees. When the tsunami struck, much of the land around the village was flooded, but the village itself suffered minimal damage.

Mangrove forests are among the most biologically productive marine ecosystems. These forests are an essential habitat for many species. They maintain water quality and function as the kidneys for estuarine environments by purifying water and ensuring sufficient oxygen for marine species.

The complex vegetative system around mangrove roots provides protection for shrimp that remain in the estuaries for between three and five months before returning to the ocean. The mangrove roots provide a nutrient-rich food source for the shrimp.

Shrimp and mud lobsters use the muddy bottom as their home. Mangrove crabs mulch the mangrove leaves, creating food for other bottom feeders.

The mangrove forests can protect inland coastal areas by absorbing the effects of storms and some tsunami waves, their massive root systems being efficient at dissipating wave energy. Mangroves also protect coastal areas from erosion. Likewise, they slow down tidal water enough that  sediment is deposited as the tide comes in, leaving only fine particles in the water when the tide ebbs.

The mangroves also provide a valuable bird habitat and a renewable supply of forest products such as edible fruits and wood for construction.

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