are complex communities of plants, tropical shrubs and trees that
grow along shoreline areas between the coast and the sea as well
as riverbanks and estuaries. New research also indicates these "rainforests
of the sea" may be critical to the health of the world's coral
to new studies, the mangroves' habitat provides important shelter
to small fish and other wildlife that comprise a coral reef's
elaborate living network.
which can encompass dozens of different species of plants, are
deeply rooted in the sand and mud that run parallel to the edge
of a body of water. They are found in the tropics and sub-tropics,
primarily in saltwater, although some plants can also adapt to
communities need protection from constant surf, which can erode
the shore and make it difficult for new plants to take root. In
some cases large coral reef systems, such as the Great Barrier
Reef in the waters off of Australia, provide shelter for mangroves
by protecting the plants from being battered by waves.
host a variety of wildlife both above and below the waterline.
Birds, small animals and insects utilize trees and larger plants
while fish, snakes and other aquatic creatures use the maze of
roots and plant life for food and shelter.
to hosting several different types of animal life, mangroves also
play a key role in preventing erosion and filtering storm runoff
or other water pollution as they are anchored directly to the
A recent study
conducted by marine biologists and other scientists published
in the journal Nature, found that mangroves are critical breeding
grounds for coral reef fish.
compared the populations of over 100 fish in two habitats: coral
reefs both close to and isolated from mangrove forests.
scientists found that mangroves were shown to harbor small fish
from predators until they were big enough to swim out to the reef,
leading to a larger and healthier community of fish for the coral
survive well in the mangroves until they are a bit larger,"
Peter Mumby, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter told
National Geographic News of the study. "But at some point
they need to move to the reef. We are not sure why they move to
the reef, but [we] suspect it's a good place to reproduce."
government estimates that some 75 percent of fish caught commercially
spend some time in the mangroves or rely on the food chain that
exists in the plant systems.
believe that new conservation efforts will be necessary to protect
and foster mangrove habitats in the future.
forests are often cleared to make way for shrimp farms or other
reasons, particularly in developing countries where a centralized
regulatory government agency for environmental concerns may not
exist or have the resources to devote to mangrove protection.
a marine biologist with Boston University's Marine Biological
Laboratory, told National Geographic that his team's research
indicates that mangroves are being destroyed at more than twice
the rate of tropical rainforests.
of these important environments therefore has to be done from
a wider perspective," Valiela told the magazine. "This
whole set of concepts bears on the issue of setting up coastal
reserves, national parks, maintaining commercial stocks, and a
host of other management issues."
By Maureen Hoch, Online NewsHour