Friday, December 7, 2012

Mangroves: Earth's Most Misunderstood Forests

Update - August 16, 2016
Marine Heatwaves Are Spawning Unprecedented Climate Chaos in Mangroves
This photo, taken on June 9, 2016, shows dead mangroves lining the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Large sections of prominent mangrove habitat in north Australia have died due to the marine heatwave.

photo credit: Scripts Institution of Oceanography
Red Mangrove Forest in Santispac, Baja California, Mexico
Scripps Study Sets High Economic Value on Threatened Mexican Mangroves
I love a quote from the above link which by the way is a good read along with a couple of short videos. It says this:
"Mangrove destruction not only comes with an ecological cost, but monetary as well; $37,500 per hectare each year, researchers say."
Very rarely do people pay attention to the destruction of any type of habitat by fire, storm damage or human activities such as urban sprawl or agricultural expansion. For many it's simply been an elimination of some kind of vegetation and perhaps some creatures who just happened to have once lived there at one time. It's the old catch phrase, "Water Off a Duck's Back". No one truly pays attention until it's too late or you attach a Dollar figure to the loss. Hit people in their economy and it's a 'horse of a different colour'. This is the same problem when Climate Scientists try and sell the public on Climate Change. Which BTW, I have no problem with. But they never deal with the value of various ecosystems and their vegetation losses in terms of explaining to the average world citizen that IT'S ALL vegetation that is what drives our climate and weather in general and it's destruction constitutes massive monetary loss to economies.  And the reasons why they never deal with the truth of the Earth's changing climate is because Left-Wingers are too hung up on defeating some Right-Wingers pushing their political agendas and none of this true important data gets published or promoted. So instead we are treated to mere arguing over silly symptoms like Temps & CO2s and this constant losing battle of Ideological wills which spin nowhere. Yawn!

Okay back to Mangroves. I'm going to focus attention on Baja California Mangrove Forest habitats because I highly doubt most people in the southwestern United States even know such an amazing tropical wonder actually exist around desert environments just to the south of them. I've often wonder if at one time such important forests didn't at one time exist in and around the Colorado River delta region in the huge tidal flats that must have existed there at one time. Many don't realize the vital roles they play as wildlife nurseries and coastal storm protection barriers. To quote another recent article from  Terra Daily  on the benefits, here is what experts from Forestry and Conservation organizations along with the United Nations have said about the importance of Mangrove Forest habitat:
* Mangrove forests serve as highly efficient carbon stores ans sinks. Alongside living biomass, mangrove soils are carbon rich, sequestering carbon over millennial timescales.
* Near shore fisheries among mangroves are well documented and are of critical importance to many communities, but large scale fisheries, such as commercial offshore shrimp fisheries are also highly dependent on mangroves as nursery or breeding grounds.
*  Mangroves provide rot resistant, high value timber and excellent fuelwood which has been harvested in sustainable silviculture programmes in some countries for over 120 years.
 * In many settings mangroves act as a form of natural coastal defense, reducing erosion, attenuating waves and even reducing the height of storm surges. Over the long term, they can also help to build up or maintain elevation in the face of rising seas.
National Academy of Sciences, PNAS/CONAPESCA

Everyone familiar with Sonoran and Baja Desert ecosystems and Geology will recognize the map area referenced here. The northern most Mangrove Forests are in the lower reaches of the Sonoran Desert system of which Arizona is a large part. 
Very Kool Gallery below illustrating Mangrove Forest
value and what organisms would be missing if such ecosystems didn't exist. There is some evidence that at one tome the Colorado River Delta had both Mangroves, Jaguars and even Crocodiles within that vast impressive delta system, but is now nothing more than dry desert mud flats. Of course there are some brave attempts to bring back a small portion of delta habitat, but it's only a speck on the map of what once was.

These Mangrove Forests are a huge deal, because mangrove forests worldwide are under serious threat.  Beside providing habitat and supporting unique ecosystems themselves, they also protect the a large amount of coastal areas from coastal erosion, a serious threat in many coastal areas. Above is a Scale Model showing how mangrove forests protect the coast from wave erosion, especially during storms. Here also is the link below: - Scale model showing how mangrove forests protect the coast from wave erosion. 
Photograph - Caroline Rogers
Prop roots of the  Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)  tree to create thickets that harbor a wide variety  of creatures both above and below the water.
Photograph - Caroline Rogers
Pale-blue sponges  and multiple coral colonies  (Agairis agaricites) grow on mangrove prop roots. 
Soundwaves - USGS - Discovering the Secret Gardens in the Mangroves of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Matthew D. Potenski

Shoal of baitfish swirling amongst
the mangrove forest roots
Important Mangrove habitat restoration techniques and other information can be found at the  Bashan Foundation  website. As this organization points out, uninformed opinions shackled by pursuits of wealth making ventures have resulted in the destruction of several Mangrove habitats down in Baja California. The coastal shorelines have been viewed as having more value by removal the Mangroves and beach sand replacement for Hotels, Condos, Country Clubs and other Commercial ventures, because these trees are looked upon as nothing more than invasive weeds working against human money making opportunities. This erroneous incorrect viewpoint has also been the fate of Southern California Chaparral Plant Community habitats. Below is a website link to Matthew Potenski's website and Mangrove forest exploration adventure."Mangroves: The Forest Through the Trees"

Matthew D. Potenski
An Ocean in Focus Conservation Photography Contest Essay  by Matthew D. Potenski

Not long ago I wrote a post about Underwater Electrical Networks: Possible Climate Driver Which Might Have Been Disrupted ?  and the possible implications towards climate mechanisms and underwater ecosystem habitat with regard the ocean floor's living biological networks. Clearly much of what has been discovered underwater seems to be an aqua environmental mirror to what takes place on the land surface. Since this is the main focus of this blog, then it brings along important questions that should be seriously answered in view of the trillions of things we don't know and should know before we destroy these complex networks. Admittedly, I have never pursued any in depth understanding before of Mangrove forests and their importance. Clearly everything is connected. The contribute not only to a major nursery for fisheries and other creatures, but also a filtering mechanism for water coming off  the landscape and heading out to sea. Many of these marshland filtering mechanism habitats along California's coasts have been destroyed or greatly reduced as a result of direct concrete channeling of long time ancient river and flood plain right of ways. Human commercial interests generally take precedent over ecology. Especially so in Southern California. Here is an illustrative photograph of a tree in the Ficus Family (Fig) which cleverly allows most people to experience what it would be like to be under water in and around mangrove root infrastructure.

Photograph - Okinawa Soba (Rob) - "The Patio Banyan"

I'd love to visit Baja and discover some of these pristine ecological sites, but the recent border violence over the past several years prevents me from even wanting to go through a border town. Last time I was down there was in 2003 where I gave a public talk in English at Rosarito Beach. Even then I was pulled over by a cop who wanted a bribe. Well, just biding my time. This system is almost finished and then there will be unlimited freedom to pursue all manner of fascinating study.
Further Reference Reading:
Mangroves in the Gulf of California increase fishery yields
Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange: "Gulf of California Mangrove Ecosystem Services"
The Encyclopedia of Earth: "Mangrove Ecology"
Bashan Foundation of La Paz, Baja California, Mexico
Mangroves in the Gulf of California increase fishery yields

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