Hallmark may not have a card for it, but today is International Mangrove Action Day.
The occasion is a small but vibrant tradition that has been observed annually on July 26th for nearly a decade in countries around the globe, including the U.S., India, Ecuador, Micronesia and many others. To celebrate, some communities organize protests or restoration projects. Some convene discussions or offer educational lectures about mangrove ecology. Others simply take a moment to appreciate the importance of mangrove forests.
Why have a special day for mangroves? They don’t have the cachet of the giant redwoods or the notoriety of rainforests. In fact, many people find these tough, tropical plants unappealing. When new coastal development takes place in the tropics, mangroves are often one of the first things to go—clearing the swampy shallows to make way for recreational areas or boating facilities.
They serve as barriers against storms and tsunamis, saving lives and protecting property. They filter polluted run-off and provide us with many other benefits, including seafood, fruits, medicines, fiber and wood. All in all, researchers estimate, the world’s mangrove forests provide humans with many billions of dollars worth of free goods and services.
Unfortunately, we’re not treating them with the respect they deserve. In the last decade, at least 35 percent of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed. That’s a rate of loss that exceeds the disappearance of tropical rain forests.
At SERC, senior scientist Candy Feller has been studying mangroves for more than 15 years. She loves scrambling, climbing and crawling through the tangled roots of these swampy forests, even when it means facing harsh conditions, navigating man-made hazards, and—often—learning more bad news about threats to her favorite landscape.Got five minutes for mangroves? Listen in as Feller and fellow SERC ecologist Dennis Whigham compare scars and talk about their explorations in these endangered, fringing forests. Then, if you’ve ever adventured through mangroves, we want to hear your stories. Post them to the mangrove section on the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal.
— By Christine Hoekenga, Ocean Portal