Some of you may have a pretty good idea of what mangroves are, some of you may not. In this blog I will tell you about my experiences with the mangroves and about the importance of these forests, because they are pretty damn cool!
At the shark conservation project we work in the mangrove nursery every Monday. Mangroves are plants that you can spot in shallow coastal areas in tropical environments. They grow mainly in salty water along coastlines and in rivers. At the nursery we recycle plastic bottles and use them as the base of our mangrove seeds called propagules. The tasks we get vary in many ways: cutting the bottles in two, making small holes in the halves, digging up dirt, filling up the bottle halves with dirt, plant the propagules in the dirt, and water them from time to time. I have to admit: cutting bottles for hours or digging up dirt when its 35°C are not my favourite tasks, but they are necessary.
We give the propagules in our nursery a few months to grow stronger and bigger before we plant them in the river beds.
There they will become big trees, forming a safe haven for lots of animals like fish, crustaceans, insects, reptiles, birds, etc. We are particularly interested in sharks breeding near the mangroves, like Bullsharks, Sicklefin Lemon sharks and the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark.
When we are out of propagules we have to go collect them in the river. If its high tide, we can just pick them up out of the water our climb the trees. I had to collect them during low tide, so the boat couldn’t reach the forest. We had to walk through the mud. Every step we took, our legs sunk deeper and deeper in the bottom. This released smelly gases, being stuck in the mud for who knows how long. Very pleasant … But we were determined to overcome every obstacle. Because of the dense vegetation, we had to move acrobatically along the branches. It was so much fun! We came back with two full bags of propagules and they nicknamed us ‘the mangrove warriors’.
But why are we doing this? The mangrove forms a unique ecosystem that is of great importance for biodiversity. It’s a habitat where animals come to feed, breed and hide. It also traps sediment, provides a buffer against tsunamis, and filters pollution out of the air we breathe. The more mangroves there are, the healthier the environment, which is also an advantage for the economy.
Unfortunately each year about 1% of the mangroves disappear. In 30 years more than 30% of the mangrove forests got destroyed because of human development. Lots of people prefer beaches, ocean view, and high buildings to attract tourism. The consequences are more pollution and less biodiversity. We’re trying to prevent this from happening.
“Laws change, people die, the land remains” – Abraham Lincoln