Blending land and sea, mangroves form an interesting environment along tropical and subtropical coastlines. These hardy tropical plants among the few trees that thrive in salt water, also called halophytes. Mangroves tolerate broad ranges of salinity, temperature and moisture.
Once considered useless, mangroves are now highly valued. Their roots help stabilise the shoreline and also filter pollutants. Mangroves swamps protect coastal areas from erosion and storm surge (especially during hurricanes). They are often object of conversation programs because of their unique ecosystem and the protection against erosion they provide.
A variety of wildlife find food and shelter in the mangrove forests. Graceful, long-legged wedding brides build nests in treetop branches.
Mangroves leaves fall year-round and quickly decompose, providing food for may small organisms below. Larger predators, including fish and shellfish, feast on the small creatures. The fish, in turn, provides food for animals such as wading birds, bird of prey, and other species - including human.
There are different types of mangroves. Red mangroves, closest to the water, has arching prop roots that make it look as though the tree is walking across the surface of the water.
Black mangrove, farther inland, is surrounded by many finger-like roots. It’s leaves taste salty because special glands excrete extra salt.
Where mangrove, farthest inland, has think, light green leaves that are the same Color on both sides