Mangroves in the Philippines

Before we begin…

What is a Mangrove???

This is a type of tree or bush, that usually comes in groups, that grows and stays in coastal saline or brackish water. If you have visited the seaside before, in a tropical place, you have probably seen trees on the sand or in the salty water. These type of trees are called mangroves. And, while some trees are more obviously with their numerous (hair) tangled roots above ground and dense thickets, there are some mangroves that look normal (meaning calmer roots). One example, is the palm trees in the beach. Yup, they are mangroves. Also, aside from the fact that mangroves have the strength to undergo hostile (meaning unfriendly) conditions, mangroves are also known for being halophytes or salt tolerant trees (which are plants that have the special adaptive skills to survive in high salinity areas).

What is the importance of Mangroves???

Mangroves are very helpful to our planet. There are many different ways that these type of trees (or shrubs) have helped our earth. Did you know that the difference between a rainforest and a mangrove forest? It is that Mangroves can absorb at least four times (4!!)  more carbon than rainforests can. Also, mangroves help by:

  • Fisheries:

Big groups of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species are able to take shelter in the mangroves forest. Because of these fisheries, thousands of coastal communities (in different places around the world) make an essential source of food. Aside from coral reefs, mangroves are nurseries for a great amount of different species of fish. It’s proven by a study taken in the Great Maya Reef, that there are about 25 times more fish (of some species) found in reef close to mangrove areas rather than in places without any mangroves close by (or areas with cut down mangroves). Thie pretty much means that mangroves are vitally important to coral reefs and commercial fisheries.

  • The Wood:

A Mangrove tree has wood that doesn’t rot and is resistant to insects. Unfortunately, because of this very special trait, Mangrove wood has become extremely valuable.

This wood is also used a lot for construction material and for fuel by many coastal and indigenous (also known as the native people) communities. Let’s get back to the communities bit here. They (the community) have also use the Mangrove ecosystem for medicinal plants.

  • Coastal Protection:

According to the WWF, the dense root systems of mangrove forests trap sediments flowing down rivers and off the land. This helps stabilizes the coastline and prevents erosion from waves and storms. In areas where mangroves have been cleared, coastal damage from hurricanes and typhoons is much more severe. By filtering out sediments, the forests also protect coral reefs and seagrass meadows from being smothered in sediment.

The Mangroves have an evolutionary adaptation such as the ability to:

  • Cope with the saltttt

Let us start with the fact that salt water is pretty strong and kills plants. The job that the mangrove does is extract the freshwater from the saltwater that surrounds the trees. There are countless different trees that survive by filtering as much as 90% of the salt found in the seawater that they intake through their roots. There are even times when you could see salt excreted through the glands which results in salt crystals on the leaf of a mangrove tree. If you lick the leaf that had salt exreted on them…… it will take kinda salty.

  • Got Fresh Water

Mangrove have this smart stratedgy where they store fresh water in their thick succulent leaves like they are desert plants (except not in the desert). You will notice that it is because of the waxy coating that aids in keeping in water (in the leaves) and it also helps in minimizing evaporation. Also, if you look more into the specifics of the leaves, you will see small hairs on the leaves (of other species). These small hairs help in deflecting wind and sunlight.

So now that I have given you guys a glimpse of what a Mangrove is and how it operates and some of the importances of their existance, we will be directing our focus towards the Mangroves in the Philippines. Yay!!

Let us start.

It was in the beggining that the Philippines had attained about 500,000 hectares of mangrove forest. Years went quickly and now we have only less than half. Less than half would be around 100,000 hectares of mangroves that remain until today. Now, we should all agree that it was a big jump to go from 500,000 to 100,00 so let’s learn how it all happened.

There are many different reasons as to why our Mangroves ended up how it is today. And some of them are:

Source: WWF
  • Clearing:

Mangrove forests have often been seen as unproductive and smelly, and so cleared to make room for agricultural land, human settlements and infrastructure (such as harbours), and industrial areas. More recently, clearing for tourist developments, shrimp aquaculture, and salt farms has also taken place. This clearing is a major factor behind mangrove loss around the word.

  • Convertion of Mangrove Forest to Fishpond.
  • Climate change:

Mangrove forests require stable sea levels for long-term survival. They are therefore extremely sensitive to current rising sea levels caused by global warming and climate change.

  • Overfishing:

The global overfishing crisis facing the world’s oceans has effects far beyond the directly overfished population. The ecological balance of food chains and mangrove fish communities can also be altered.

  • Destruction of Coral reefs:

Coral reefs provide the first barrier against currents and strong waves. When they are destroyed, the stronger-than-normal waves and currents reaching the coast can undermine the fine sediment in which the mangroves grow. This can prevent seedlings from taking root and wash away nutrients essential for mangrove ecosystems.

  • Pollution:

Fertilizers, pesticides, and other toxic man-made chemicals carried by river systems from sources upstream can kill animals living in mangrove forests, while oil pollution can smother mangrove roots and suffocate the trees.

  • River changes:

Dams and irrigation reduce the amount of water reaching mangrove forests, changing the salinity level of water in the forest. If salinity becomes too high, the mangroves cannot survive. Freshwater diversions can also lead to mangroves drying out. In addition, increased erosion due to land deforestation can massively increase the amount of sediment in rivers. This can overcome the mangrove forest’s filtering ability, leading to the forest being smothered.

  • Overharvesting:

Mangrove trees are used for firewood, construction wood, wood chip and pulp production, charcoal production, and animal fodder. While harvesting has taken place for centuries, in some parts of the world it is no longer sustainable, threatening the future of the forests.

Unfortunately, we have been also losing our mangrove forest to deforestation as well. If we don’t properly take care of our mangroves, beaches and other water areas will become more roudy (this is even 1/4 of the consequences that will happen). Did you know that with the Pencil Roots of the Mangrove, the water that passes by becomes more peaceful? I have went on a Journey to Ibajay and I did a lot of field work. It was really fun and I got to explore and learn that there are so many life that goes under the soil. Mangroves is something that we cannot afford to lose. We have to protect it.

Yours truly,