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This information package will describe: What mangroves are; Their geographic distribution; How mangroves are unique; The special adaptions they possess; Why mangroves are important; The different mangrove types presents in the Sian Ka·an Biosphere; Threats to mangroves; Why mangroves need to be conserved; and What work is currently being done to protect mangroves.
What are Mangroves?
Mangroves are tree species which form valuable ecosystems along sheltered tropical and subtropical coastal environments. Typical mangrove habitats are periodically subjected to tidal influences, including inundation by salt water. The first explorers described mangroves as ´forests of the seaµ. Mangroves display amazing physiological, reproductive and structural features which enable them to live in these challenging conditions.
are found in Brazil with 2. Fuente: www.5 million ha and in Mexico with 660. Caribbean and Latin American mangroves account for 35% or 5.Distribution Mangroves exist in four continents.000 ha (this being nearly equivalent to the entire area of the Sian Ka·an Reserve).000 hectares (approximately 40 million acres).ramsar.8 million hectares. The greatest expanse of mangroves. in the Americas.org .530. covering an estimated 16.
Mangrove forests support extremely high biodiversity levels through the provision of nutrients and habitat. Mangroves are tolerant of the high levels of salt found in coastal environments. . Mangroves can tolerate flooding and water logged soils.Why are Mangroves Unique? Mangroves are special because they can colonize and thrive in areas where most normal plants would die. Mangroves are excellent coastal stabilizers and provide essential protection against extreme weather events.
Concentrated salt can be excreted through specialized pores in their leaves.Salt Excretion and Exclusion Mangroves do not need salt to live. Similarly salt can be stored in bark and stems. Mangroves have special physiological adaptations which enable them to minimize salt uptake and get rid of excess salt. they can tolerate living in salty environments. Salt can also be stored in older leaves which can be dropped at a later stage. Salt crystals are easily visible on the leaves of the Black Mangrove. but unlike many other plants. .
oxygen is no longer available . Oxygen uptake through plant roots is an important part of cellular respiration. However. when soil is flooded or water logged. They grow upwards from underground cable roots. Normally this gas would be available to plants in the tiny spaces (interstitial spaces) which exist between soil particles underground. Both the Black (pictured above) and White mangroves have pneumatophores .Pneumatophores ´Mangrove Snorkelsµ All plants require oxygen to ´breatheµ. Pneumatophores are specialized roots which function as snorkels for mangroves. to appear above ground as pencil²like structures.
Mangroves have developed extensive under and above ground root systems. which help them to remain anchored and upright in these challenging conditions. . The stilt roots of the Red Mangrove (left) are an example of this adaptation. water logged soils and wave action.Special Adaptations Stabilizing Root Structures Mangroves are often subjected to flooding. made of dense wood.
3. 5. which alters the centre of gravity. 8. This is how islands can form. Roots and leaves begin to develop. Following pollination the seeds germinate while still on the tree to form propagules. The propagules begin to float vertically.Special Adaptations . If conditions are suitable the propagule will rapidly develop to secure itself.Vivipary 1. This process is known as vivipary. Once one plant has established. 4. 6.To begin with propagules float horizontally. 7. additional plants can begin to establish by using accumulated sediment. . 2. Developing propagules are bouyant which enables them to travel great distances. As soon as possible the propagule will attach to suitable substrate. The Red Mangrove has white flowers which form in bright green calyx. While in the water propagules gradually absorb water.
Special Adaptations Colonization The Red Mangrove has the ability to both colonise new areas of land and create new areas of land. Numerous large. As the Red Mangrove·s intertwined root system develops it functions as a net. Once caught more trees develop. Once the propagules become anchored they quickly establish. . catching passing propagules. bouyant propagules are produced and dispersed. and so the process continues.
breeding and feeding grounds for both terrestrial and marine species. Why are Mangroves Important? . Providing valuable input into the Mexican economy through ecotourism and commercial and recreational fishing industries. Providing refuge. Providing protection to coastal ecosystems and development against major storm events. Protecting coral reefs from sedimentation and pollution. economic and cultural reasons. and Mangroves remain culturally important to the Mayan people. these include: The high level of productivity which forms the basis for a complex marine food web.Mangroves are important for ecological.
including fish. . reptiles and birds. mammals.High Biodiversity The word biodiversity is made up from the two words ¶biological· and ¶diversity·. Biodiversity refers to all the species within and ecosystem and can therefore be used as a measure of the variety of life. The high level of productivity associated with mangrove ecosystems support complex plant habitats which in turn support a high number of terrestrial and aquatic animal species.
High Productivity Productivity is term used by scientists to describe the ecological value of a vegetation community. . It is the high productivity of mangrove communities which make them such an important part of the marine food web. The productivity of mangrove communities is high in comparison to many other plant communities.
reptiles and birds then prey on these animals. Mammals. they enter into a process of constant nutrient cycling.The Food Web When mangrove leaves drop. The tiny particles which are formed can then be consumed by small herbivorous marine animals. which may eventually be eaten by even larger predators such as crocodiles. Mangrove leaf litter Protein rich organic debris Microbial activity Eaten by herbivorous marine organisms Eaten by carnivorous and omnivorous marine animals . Microorganisms and bacteria begin to break down the organic matter. These animals are in turn consumed by larger animals such as fish and crustaceans.
Which Animals Live in the Mangroves? A wide variety of animal species are dependent on the mangrove ecosystems of Sian Ka·an. .
raccoons and bats. frigate birds. Central American mangrove ecosystems are home to many different types of mammals including coatis. pelicans. inhabitat coastal mangrove ecosystems. herons and egrets are all commonly found in Sian Ka·an Biosphere Reserve. Mammals and Birds Sian Ka·an provides vital habitat and food resources for both local and migratory bird species. Cormorants. crocodiles and turtles .Reptiles. including iguanas. . Many species of reptiles.
particularly during juvenile life stages. The often submerged root systems of the mangroves provide essential shelter and food resources to many fish species. including commercially viable species.Fish Many fish. Species commonly found in the tidal zones during high tide inlcude barracudas. are dependent on mangrove ecosystems. snappers and pipe fish. .
Instead they have tough external skeletons. termites. . ants and dragonflies. Examples of invertebrates found in the mangroves include crabs.Invertebrates Invertebrates are animals which do not have backbones. and are indeed dominant in the arboreal regions of the ecosystem. molluscs. invertebrate species constitute an integral part of the mangrove ecosystem.
. Worker termites are responsible for both construction and nest repairs.wood which has been chewed by termites and cemented together. The nests are made out of ´cartonµ . Termites generally feed on rotting plant material and dead wood.Arboreal Termites Arboreal (or tree dwelling) termites create large black or brown nests which can be easily identified in the Sian Ka·an Reserve. A king and queen are responsible for reproduction. In addition to worker termites each nest has soldiers. which guard the nest.
thereby reducing the impact of these on ocean water quality and reef ecosystems. Polyp dieback results in dramatic biodiversity reduction in reef communities. . Physiologically mangroves are able to take up large quantities of nutrients and pollutants. The complex root systems of mangroves communities act as large filters. Physically the roots are able to trap large volumes of sediment and silt which could potentially smother the reefs.Relationships with Coral Reefs Mangroves play a very important role in protecting the delicate coral reefs which surround the Yucatan Peninsular. The millions of tiny polyps which form coral reef are extremely sensitive to sediment loadings and pollution.
such as those found in Sian Ka·an are visited by tourists from all over the world. .Ecotourism The unique mangrove ecosystems. Each year the increasing number of visitors increases employment opportunities and brings valuable tourism dollars to the Yucatan area.
Commercially viable marine species which are dependent on magrove ecosystems include snapper and mahi mahi. Recreational fishing is also important economically as it is a major tourist attraction.The Commercial Fishing Industry As previously mentioned mangrove ecosystems provide vital breeding grounds and refuge for many fish species. . Caught fish is both exported and consumed in Mexico. Many of these fish species are important food sources for people.
This function is important both ecological and economically.Coastal Stabilization and Protection Mangroves are the best natural defence we have against storm events and hurricanes. Their complex interlinked root sytems protect shorelines and coastal development from coastal erosion by reducing the impacts of currents. waves and wind. .
Mangroves in Sian Ka·an In the Sian Ka·an Biosphere Reserve there are four species of mangrove: The Red Mangrove (Rizophora mangle) The Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) The White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) The Gray Mangrove o Botoncillo (Conocarpus erectus ) .
Each zone is likely to be dominated by the species of tree best adapted to the particular conditions of that area. . The diagram illustrates the zonation pattern found in Sian Ka·an. the level of seed predation by animals such as crabs and propagule and seed characteristics. the intensity of wave action. the frequency of inundation. Factors which influence where a particular species dominates include the concentration of salt.Mangrove Zonation Mangrove communities are often naturally sorted into zones which run approximately parallel to the coast.
The Red Mangrove Scientific name: Mayan name: Rizophora mangle Xtapche· Red mangroves are easily recognized by the downward arching prop roots which originate from the trunk and lower branches. Salt which is absorbed is stored in leaves until they can be dropped. These stilt or prop roots enable these trees to secure themselves in tidal regions which are often subjected to wave action and flooding. The large viviparous propagules of the Red Mangrove enable this species to reproduce and colonize new areas despite challenging conditions. The roots also function in gas exchange. . Rhizophora species are able to actively reduce salt uptake by their roots.
Why is the Water Red? Have you ever noticed that the water in mangrove areas has a reddish colour. . particularly after rains? Beh-Ha (Water Road) at the Sian Ka·an Biosphere Reserve.
This type of relationship is called symbiotic mutualism. Avicennia sp. Taabche· The flowers of the black mangrove are yellow and have a scent similar to honey.The Black Mangrove Scientific name: Mayan name: Avicennia germinans. where each species involved benefits the other. are dependent upon insects to pollinate their flowers for reproduction. The black coloured bark at the base of the leaves gives this mangrove its common name . The Black Mangrove has many pnuematophores which assist the tree with cellular respiration when soil is water logged or flooded. Salt crystals may be visible on both sides of the leaves. Like many other plants. Avicennia species concenrate salt which is taken up by the root system. which attracts insects. then secrete it from their leaves.
The Gray Mangrove o Botoncillo Scientific name: Mayan name: Conocarpus erectus Kanche· This is the only species of mangrove i n the Sian Ka·an reserve which does not have aerial roots of any kind. this accounting for the alternative common name which translates to Buttonwood. It is possible that this adaptation is not necessary. . On the underside of the leaf along the central vein are pairs of small pores called ´Domaciosµ. The leaves can be easily distinguished from those of other mangroves by the two glands present on the stem at the base of the leaf. it is thought that they originate from a type of symbiotic relationship between the tree and algae and bacteria. Seeds are produced in small bunches or ¶botoncillosµ. While the exact function of these pores is unknown. as this species is generally found the furthest inland of the four species.
La corteza tiene propiedades astringentes. En la medicina tradicional (herbolaria maya) se usa en casos de disentería y fiebre.The White Mangrove Scientific name: Mayan name: Laguncularia racemosa. . tiene en el tronco y las ramas unas pequeñas raíces aéreas especializadas similares a ´hongos leñososµ.. The bark has astringent properties and . These pneumatophores are generally shorter than those of the Black Mangrove. además de las raíces convencionales. El mangle blanco. The Mayan people traditionally use the White Mangrove for medicinal purposes... Sak-olhom The White Mangrove uses many pneumatophores for the purpose of aerial respiration.
. for growing space and support. Epiphytic species of plants are most common in cloud and wet forest systems where fresh water is plentiful. they have adapted to life in an area where fresh water is not always readily available. They collect their own nutrients from tiny pieces of debris in the air. dust and soil accumulate at the base of the epiphyte. usually a tree. Epiphytes do not parasitize their host. and the plant can become rooted. Eventually plant material.Epiphytes Epiphytes are plants which are dependent on another plant. Water necessary for the plants survival is actually collected from the humidity in the air. It is for this reason that the species found in the Sian Ka·an Biosphere Reserve are unusual. This type of biological relationship is known as commensalism. It is an excellent example of relationships which exist between organisms within an ecosystem.
.Epiphytes Bromeliads Bromeliads are also known as plants of the pineapple family. The sheathing shape of the leaves enables rain and organic debris to accumulate at the base of the plant where it can be absorbed. Water and dissolved organic compounds are absorbed through the bromeliads leaves. These tiny freshwater pools often form a microenvironment used by other plants and animals.
The epidermis (skin) of the cactus is tough and thick. The spines on the stem of the cactus can help to promote the formation of dew. so water loss though evapotranspiration can be reduced. Their fleshy stems serve as important water reservoirs when freshwater is scarce.Epiphytes Cactus Cacti are well known as plants capable of withstanding long periods of drought. .
which is capable of storing water. .Epiphytes Orchids Orchids are capable of nutrient and water absorption through aerial roots. thickened at the base. Epiphytic orchids have a bulbous stem.
rubbish and sediment.Threats to Mangrove Ecosystems Unfortunately mangrove ecosystems all over the world have been negatively impacted by coastal development. . Vast tracts of mangrove ecosystems have been cleared or reclaimed to facilitate developments such as hotels. marinas and residential estates. industrial and agricultural chemicals. Additionally mangroves continue to be impacted by pollutants such as sewage.
Why Should we Conserve Mangroves? It should now be clear that mangrove ecosystems are a very important part of the coastal environment. . upon which many plant and animal species are dependent. Mangroves are also very important for Mexico in terms of ecotourism. They are productive systems with extremely high levels of biodiviersity. It is essential that our mangroves ecosystems are protected for future generations to experience and enjoy. commercial fishing and mayan culture.
. If you would like to learn more about the amazing mangrove ecosystems found in the Yucatan Pennisular please contact....Sian Ka·an Biosphere Reserve What is Being Done? In January.. The reserve continues to work with local people to reduce the negative impacts associated with non sustainable fishing and forestry industries. environmental education. and ecotourism are the main priorities of the reserve. Financial backing and support is dependent on non-government organizations and donations. . ecological research.. Conservation.. 1986 Sian Ka·an became a dedicated biosphere reserve and in 1997 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
mx/conserv/mangrove/emang.cibnor.asp?plantID=3926 USDA: Plants Profile.mx Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants www.Do you want to know more? ·Instituto Nacional de Ecología www.gob. un mundo olvidado.gov/cgi_bin/plant_profile.gob.usda.cgi?symbol=RHMA2#wetland Ramsar convention for the international protection of the wetlands www. Juan José Morales.usf.ine.edu/main. Amigos de Sian Ka·an http://www3.plantatlas. .ramsar.com Los humedales.conabio.html Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste SC.mx/ Comisión nacional para el conocimiento y uso de la biodiversidad www. plants.
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