Mangroves populate the coasts of many tropical and subtropical areas of the world, serving as the backbone of an ecosystem that sustains a great wealth of biodiversity. However, their future is threatened by deforestation and the degradation of their habitat.
Mangrove forests grow in areas where there is abundant water, a mix of fresh and sea water, an ecosystem of marshes or swamps.
According to one Internet site explaining the taxonomy of this unique tree, there are some 100 species within the mangrove family, all of which are vascular plants.
Resistant to salinity, mangroves grow in coastal areas, such as estuaries, and their wood is highly prized. They normally have extensive roots, some of which extend from the trunk and are partially exposed to the air and partially submerged in its watery environs.
These trees produce nutrients that allow a great variety of air, land and aquatic life forms to flourish. The loss of the ecosystem they create means a reduction in biodiversity, coastal erosion, and poor water quality, according to organizations that promote mangrove conservation and sustainable use.
Some of these groups are leading intensive campaigns to save the mangrove, such as the Mangrove Action Plan, which reports that there was a time when three-quarters of the world's tropical and subtropical coasts were populated by these trees. Today, just a portion of that area remains, and at least half is threatened with destruction.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), mangrove forests cover a total of 181,000 square km in different parts of the world.