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182

mangroves

OLogy Series
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card
182

mangroves

OLogy Series
place

Found along tropical coastlines, thick mangrove forests were once considered a nuisance, infested with mosquitoes and blocking the coasts. But now we know that mangroves are crucial to coastal ecosystems. The mangrove tree's unique ability to put down roots at the ocean's edge creates homes for hundreds of other species. Young fish and shrimp find shelter among the trees' tangled roots.

Mangroves shed leaves year-round. This thick layer of leaves:

endangers species below by blocking the water's surface

traps fish species so they can't migrate and spawn

is an essential part of the food web

Are you right?

Correct!

This thick layer of leaves is an essential part of the food web. Fungi and bacteria decompose inside the carpet of fallen leaves, creating nutrients for small fish, shrimp, and lobsters. Larger fish and birds then eat those smaller species.

Some mangrove trees have roots that arch high above the water to:

absorb oxygen from the air

keep the tree from drowning in the water

say hello to the nearby animals and plants

Are you right?

Correct!

The mangrove's roots rise up out of the mud to breathe oxygen from the air. The oxygen enters through tiny holes that close tightly when tides rise over them. Some mangroves have roots that stick up out of the ground like snorkels.

The mangroves are home to a fish that can live out of water and hop over mud.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The "mudskipper" carries water in a pouch around its gills, which enables it to live out of water. It can even climb trees!

Location: warm areas along the coasts of Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific islands, South America, and the Caribbean
Characteristics: thick forests of jagged
mangrove trees, their roots, and deep black mud
Closely linked habitats: seagrass beds and coral reefs
Importance: prevent erosion along coasts, and reclaim areas destroyed by hurricanes

Image credits: courtesy of OAR, National Undersea Research Program.