Mangroves are tidal forests (trees and shrubs) that have developed a number of unique and specialised features that allow them to live in the intertidal zone. Living on the edge of the ocean they have developed strategies to cope with high salinity, unstable and waterlogged soils, tides and waves. But mangroves are not only amazing habitats with fascinating plants and wildlife, they are also very important coastal ecosystems.
Mangrove forests are important because of their high primary productivity – they are actually comparable with rainforests in terms of the rich amount of organic material they produce. The leaf litter shed by mangroves breaks down into rich organic matter called detritus, which is the basis of vast food webs (both within the mangroves and the sea beyond). Not surprisingly, mangroves are habitats for an extraordinary diverse range of wildlife and are considered to be biodiversity ‘hotspots’. For this reason, they are a very important feeding ground for both land and marine species. Many people are increasingly aware of these links, especially that - healthy mangroves means healthy fisheries.
Living at the interface of the land and the sea, mangroves also provide a number of important ‘free services’ that are often not recognised, including shoreline protection and stabilisation, stormwater filtration and recycling of nutrients – keeping our harbour clean. Importantly, mangroves are of increasing economic importance due to their extremely high carbon storage capacity.
Nearly half of Australia’s total mangrove area occurs along the NT coastline and these mangroves have been described as the most healthy and least impacted in the world. Consequently we are the custodians of a very important national and global resource that should be managed wisely.
We have put together a pictorial guide showing the main features of Mangrove Leaves from Darwin Harbour, NT. Choose the link below to find out more:
See our Photo Gallery from 2014