Mangrove Habitat

MangrovesMangroves are often called “nature’s nursery” because they provide habitat and shelter for a variety of animals. They also serve as an indicator of the health of our coastal waterways. Mangrove branches provide nesting sites for many species of birds, and mangrove roots both above and below the water, provide a safe haven for mangrove crabs, shrimp, oysters, and mussels.

In Florida, 191 species of birds, along with numerous species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and insects inhabit mangrove forests. Approximately 75 percent of commercially caught local fish, such as snook, tarpon, and snapper, utilize mangrove systems at some point during their lives. Additionally, mangroves support a huge variety of sea life. Protection of remaining mangrove communities is vital to the environmental and economic future of Florida. Without mangroves, fish populations can plummet, coastal areas are vulnerable to beach erosion and the full force of hurricanes.

Types of Mangroves:

Red MangroveRed Mangrove: Rhizophora mangle L.- A type of mangrove that is found along the fringe of estuarine waterways along the coast. Red Mangroves can be identified by their distinctive aerial prop roots, hence the name, “walking trees”. Red Mangroves also have ‘live births’, meaning each propagule that drops from the tree is already a living seedling

Black MangroveBlack Mangrove: Avicennia germinans L. - Black mangroves are usually found more inland, just behind red mangroves, at a slightly higher elevation. They can be easily identified by their fingerlike roots which poke out of the ground. Black mangrove roots, called pneumatophores, allow the tree to survive in waterlogged or oxygen-poor soil. Their leaves are capable of excreting excess salt back to the environment. Salt crystals are often visible on the leaves.

White MangroveWhite Mangrove: Laguncularia racemosa L. - White Mangroves are generally the smallest species of mangroves. Unlike red and black mangroves, they pioneer disturbed areas typically away from the coastline. White mangroves can be identified by their fleshy ovate leaves that have two distinctive nectaries, or glands at the base of the leaf which excrete salt. They can also grow peg roots out of the soil to aid in gaseous exchange.

Buttonwood: Conocarpus erectus L. - Buttonwood mangroves are named so because of the button-like appearance of the dense, rounded flower heads that grows in a cluster off their branches. Buttonwoods are usually found at higher elevations in association with the White mangroves. They can survive in brackish water, but lack many of the specializations typical of mangroves, like aerial roots and vivipary. This species is often debated as a true mangrove.

The study of mangrove health is important to all of us to guarantee an abundant fish population and protect us from coastal erosion and dangerous storm impacts. The Conservancy performs studies of mangrove health.

For more information on current studies and findings, continue reading here >>