photo: International Union for Conservation of Nature
One of the fondest memories of my honeymoon was kayaking through the mangrove forests on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. The trees were mystical, something out of a fairy tale. That's why I was more than a little saddened to learn that forests of this kind all over the world are in serious decline. In fact, many of them are threatened with extinction. The first ever global assessment of the world's mangrove forests found that 11 of the 70 species of mangrove trees are threatened with extinction. They've been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™. According to the study, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central America, where as many as 40 percent of mangrove species are found, have experienced the most serious declines.
"The potential loss of these species is a symptom of widespread destruction and exploitation of mangrove forests," says Beth Polidoro, Research Associate of the GMSA at Old Dominion University and principal author of the study. "Mangroves form one of the most important tropical habitats that support many species, and their loss can affect marine and terrestrial biodiversity much more widely."
Mangroves currently dominate about two thirds of the world's tropical coastlines. And while their beauty is awe inspiring, mangroves are also vital to coastal communities for protection purposes. They shield the land from the damage caused by erosion, storms, and tsunami waves. Even more than that, mangroves sequester vast amounts of carbon from our atmosphere.
More on Mangroves:
Mangrove Loss Left Burma Exposed to Cyclone
Mangroves & Coastal Wetlands Store 50 Times More Carbon Than Tropical Forests by Area
Richard Branson Backs Legal Bid to Protect Virgin Island Mangroves