“The Salt-Loving Plant’’
Why Mangroves are Important …
• Mangroves provide habitat (food, shelter, air and water) and a nursery for many important estuary creatures. Approx. 90% of our commercial seafood, and 70% of local game fish spend some part of their lives in a mangrove wetland. Below the water, the roots of the mangroves provide protective areas, as well as food, for numerous fish species, such as snook, snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, red drum, oysters, and shrimp, crabs and mollusks. Above the water, mangroves serve as rookeries for numerous water bird species, such as Brown Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Snowy, Great and Reddish Egrets ; and Little Blue, Great Blue, Tri-Colored, Black-Crowned and Yellow Crowned Night Herons. They provide a resting place for birds of prey, song birds and migratory birds, as they travel the Atlantic flyway.
• Mangroves provide a huge source of food. As the mangrove leaves fall, within hours, bacteria and fungi begin to turn the leaves into a rich source of food known as detritus .Worms, shrimp, crabs, mullet and many other animals then eat the detritus, and in return are eaten by larger animals.
• Mangroves enhance the quality of our local waters by trapping and cycling pollutants, filtering sediments and absorbing excessive nutrients resulting from storm water runoff.
• Mangroves help stabilize our local shores from erosion during storms. The roots of the mangroves help trap sediment and keep the shoreline intact. They act as a buffer, reducing storm surge and high wind.
• Mangroves provide approx. 50% of Florida’s oxygen.
Mangrove survival is in our hands.
Mangroves are a vital part of our local salt marsh ecosystem. They have been removed extensively for development, and pollution and freezes have taken their toll. It is estimated that 85% have been lost since the 1940’s.They are federally protected today, and cannot be trimmed or removed without a permit.
Here are a few ways you can help:
Increase the green – Increase the natural areas on your property by removing impervious surfaces (concrete and asphalt) and replacing them with surfaces that will allow rainwater to filter into the aquifer. This will decrease the amount of pollutants that enter into our local waters.
Support projects that maintain natural shorelines as opposed to sea walls and other forms of hard armoring. A natural shoreline will contain both mangrove and oyster communities. These communities will serve as a natural defense against erosion and help increase biological diversity in our local waters.
Get involved in local Mangrove planting and Invasive Species removal projects held throughout the year.
Help spread the word. Whether you’re a fisherman, boater or passerby, all of us depend on a healthy mangrove ecosystem here in Volusia County.
Mangroves include a group of plants loosely related to one another. More than 50 species have been identified worldwide with Volusia County providing a home for 4 species – Red, Black, White and Buttonwood. All mangroves plants or communities:
- live in tropical to sub-tropical climates that contain wet soils, tolerate saline habitats (halophytes), are exposed to periodic tidal submergence and exhibit viviparity (a plant with live birth – the seed is germinated (propagule) on the parent plant before dispersal).
The main source of water is salty, thus the mangrove has the capability to excrete salt through the roots and leaves.
Growing along the edge of the shoreline where conditions are harshest, the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is easily distinguished from other species by tangled, reddish prop roots. These prop roots originate from the trunk with roots growing downward from the branches. The long, pointed seed (propagule) hangs from the tree, and eventually drops into the water where it floats until finding land. The bottom part of the seed fills with water, causing it to float vertically, enabling it to sink the tip into the ground and take root once it reaches the shore. The waxy, pointed leaf is bright green, and the yellow blossoms are a favorite of bees and butterflies.
Avicennia germinans, the black mangrove, is characterized by long horizontal roots and root-like projections known as pneumatophores. It grows at elevations slightly higher than the red mangrove where tidal change exposes the roots to air. The pencil-shaped pneumatophores originate from underground horizontal roots projecting from the soil around the tree’s trunk. They provide oxygen to the underwater root systems, allowing exchange of gases, stabilizing both tree and shore, and providing shelter for small species. The small blossoms are creamy white in color. The seed resembles a lima bean in shape and has often begun to germinate by the time it drops in late fall. This mangrove is found the farthest north as it is most freeze tolerant, most likely because as it uptakes salt, it is exuded through the leaves, coating them and providing some protection from frost.
Occupying higher land than the red and black mangroves, the white mangrove (Languncularia racemosa) has no visible aerial roots, unlike the black mangrove which has pneumatophores and the red mangrove with prop roots. It bears clusters of small, furrowed pale green seeds in early autumn. The leaves are ovate and elliptical, with a notched tip and 2 glands (nectarines) are located at the base, on either side of the stalk. The white mangrove tends to be small and bushy in central Florida, but can be over 50 feet tall in tropical climates.
Often found in the upland transitional zone, the buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) is often associated with mangrove communities. The name buttonwood comes from the button-like appearance of the dense flower heads that grow in branched clusters, forming cone-like fruit. This plant does not reproduce via propagules, instead producing seed cases. While the three mangrove species have leaves that occur opposite of each other, the buttonwood leaves alternate. This tree is often used in seaside landscaping.
The Indian River Lagoon is the most bio-diverse estuary in the USA. This is largely due to the presence of mangroves. There are close to 700 species of fish, over 300 species of birds, an abundance of butterfly species, and many animal species existing in mangrove communities. In the past, people utilized mangroves for furniture, charcoal, firewood, honey and tanning leather. Today, we need to preserve and restore Mangrove wetlands as as essential habitat that will last for generations.