Mangroves trees are suited to grow in coastal waters. These trees are important in protecting and sustaining our coastal environment. They can reduce wave and wind energy created by storms from becoming a potentially devastating force from the coast moving inland. Mangrove systems are recognized for their potential in sheltering young fish as well as their ability in storing carbon both below and above ground.
Coastal urbanization can create conditions that cause stress in the forest. For example, trimming the canopy of trees can affect the way it stores carbon above ground as well as disrupting the way the tree photosynthesizes. Trimming can also weaken the trees ability to protect the inland from wind and wave energy. Other stressors to mangrove systems include lack of in-coming and out-going tides that a healthy forests depend on, causing stress through longer than normal flooding (inundation) and urban runoff that can create unfavorable conditions within a forest. Neither circumstance is ideal in helping a forest stay strong to weather storms and capture carbon.
Forests ability to trap sediment and build soil and peat when tides are rising faster are creating problems for mangrove systems. If the water is rising faster than the forest can create soil the forest will be forced to move inward. However, if the forest is adjacent to development it leaves mangroves nowhere to expand. This can lead to a deterioration of the forests and potential collapse in the system’s soil. Our local mangroves are fighting an uphill battle with so many different factors that influence the health of these systems. Urban squeeze and climate challenges can have a negative effect on these majestic trees.
If a system is healthy, it will provide optimal nursery grounds for juvenile fish in the maze of red mangrove roots from larger prey fish. Building of soil and peat creates an area where carbon can be stored and nutrients could be captured on exchanging tides. Mangroves are also adapted to withstand large storms, slowing the energy of the water and wind. Mangrove systems are exactly that, a system that can function, but not optimal when under stress. When stress is created in a system, it can create a downward spiral that can get to a point of no return without extensive intervention. That is why we need to protect our future by protecting the present.