Environmental Insights: Mangroves

Take a closer look at the world around you and understand how it's connected through our Environmental Insights series.

Written by: ELC Junior Interpreter Hayden LaGuardia, age 12

Photos by Hayden LaGuardia

What if there were such a thing as a sea wall that rebuilds itself and is a home to various species of animals? Well, there is such a thing. They are called mangrove trees. Mangroves are one of the most important trees in Florida and are lined all along the Indian River Lagoon. But people might not understand how important and amazing these trees are.

“Mangroves are good sea walls because they are taller and rebuild themselves.” said Dr. Glenn Coldren, Research Scientist of the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center.

Mangrove roots can trap sediments which can build coastlines, stop erosion, and slow down storm surges. This is important because they help with lowering the damage caused by high winds and rising water levels caused by hurricanes.

Caity Savoia, Lead Scientist at the Marine Resources Council Lagoon House in Palm Bay said, “Mangrove trees are super trees.”

Mangrove trees can survive in both fresh and salt water. Black and white mangroves excrete the salt out of their leaves, while red mangroves have a filtration system on their roots to stop the salt, but let water through. Even when the salinity changes in the Lagoon they still thrive.

There are over 1,300 species of animals that call mangroves their home. Coldren calls them, “Housing complexes for animals.”

Herons, egrets, white ibis, ospreys, and spoonbills build nests in mangrove trees. There are also many creatures that live under mangrove trees including, barnacles, oysters, mussels, sponges, worms, and snails. The roots of mangrove trees are nurseries for juvenile animals like lemon sharks, blacktip sharks, jellyfish, snapper, jack, trout, and snook.

There are many threats to mangroves. Invasive plants, like Brazilian Pepper and Australian Pines, shade and crowd the mangroves to where some of them die. People cut mangroves down for development and better views of the water.

“Man-made sea walls take away the land where mangrove trees could grow naturally,” said Caity Savoia.

We can all help mangroves by leaving them alone, admiring the amazing trees that they are, showing our love for them by doing research, telling people about the benefits of mangroves, and remembering the big part they play in our ecosystem. Without mangroves, we might have more storm damage and erosion, less animal activity, and greater water pollution. We should love mangroves because they help us and the environment.

The ELC Junior Interpreter program is designed for 6th-8th graders who are passionate about the environment and interested in developing their communication skills to advocate for our natural resources.

Last year, with support from Tyler Treadway of the TC Palm, the Junior Interpreters wrote newspaper articles highlighting areas of concern in our local environment. Although only a few of them were officially selected for publication, we are excited to release their hard work through our Environmental Insights series.

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