Exploring Costa Rica's Mangrove Swamps


Mangroves in Costa Rica. Image credit: Matthew McDermott

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, Boing Boing's science writer Maggie Koerth-Baker had the opportunity to explore a mangrove swamp. While floating amidst the trees, she reports, it was hard not to imagine them to be sentient, Ent-like, creatures, lying in wait for the moment in which they could stand up and walk away.

Around the world, she explains, mangrove forests perform essential functions to maintain nearby ecosystems. These vital, if oft-forgotten, swamps, however, are increasingly threatened.The trees that have evolved to live in the brackish water of a mangrove swamp—which can form anywhere a freshwater river meets a salty sea—are natural problem solvers. Salt typically harms plants but, through processes that are still not fully understood, mangrove trees are able to cope with or filter out the salt in the water surrounding their roots.

This filtering ability, researchers have found, allows mangrove trees to remove other compounds, like organic and chemical pollutants, from river water. Their capacity for absorption, however, is not unlimited and in many places mangroves are being choked by an overabundance of pollutants.

This, of course, is just the beginning of the intricate story of mangrove swamps.

Read more at BoingBoing.net
Read more about mangroves:
Mangroves & Coastal Wetlands Store 50 Times More Carbon Than Tropical Forests by Area
Mangrove Loss Left Burma Exposed to Cyclone
Richard Branson Backs Legal Bid to Protect Virgin Island Mangroves
What's A Swamp Worth? If It's A Mexican Mangrove, US$37,500 per Hectare per Year

Tags: Conservation | Costa Rica | Oceans | Rivers

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