Aquatic Ecosystem — Mangrove Swamps (No Background Music)

Take a look at this place, wonderful isn’t it? Believe it or not this Mangrove forest is actually located in Bangkok! Today we’re at Bangkhutian’s Mangrove forest. This area might be small compare to other places but it is very important to the sea world and the environment. We also explored another mangrove forest which is quite near Bangkok, the Bang Pu Nature Education Centre. Mangrove swamps are coastal wetlands found in tropical and subtropical regions where the fresh water meets sea water or estuary in other words. The environment condition there is harsh. Saltwater, rising tides, low oxygenation and staying in muddy soil isn’t a very easy task to accomplish at all. The inhabitants there, both animals and plants have gone through many impressive adaptations that allow them to survive such harsh condition. Let’s take a closer look to this fascinating forest that people might mistaken for a useless wasteland. There are many species of plants and animals. Rhizophora or true mangrove, Avicennia Herbaceous Seepweed and a lot of mangrove species mudskipper and the fiddler crab and many others are the example that we found. But there are also other species as well that we didn’t have a chance to meet. Other common species include fish mussels or shells that can’t be easily seen and the crab-eating macaques. They all have gone through many adaptations in order to survive here. The mudskipper is a good example for this. They, unlike other fish, spend most of the time on land rather than in water. So they could only be found in an intertidal areas, swamps or rivers that have a tidal cycle. The mudskipper can breathe on land, however, it does not have lungs like the lungfish. Instead, they still use their gills like other fish but when they come out of water, they will seal their gills to trap water and air inside and also breathe through their skins and mouth linings just like the frogs. The condition of the land is also important as it has to be wet in order to keep their skins moisturized to be able to breathe this way. Consequently, they will have to return to water or roll in mud once in awhile to keep them wet. Other than that, they also adapted their physical features and function to suit the environment. Compared to other fish, they are rather muscular especially with their strong pectoral fins that allow them to travel on land as it functions like legs. Another impressive thing about the mangrove is how the plants adapted to the condition here that is especially difficult for plants to survive. The saltwater, tides and low oxygenation are all problems for normal plants. All of this required them to make changes especially on the root system. Normally saltwater would kill plants. But mangrove species can filter out these salt up to 90% by many ways. Many of them can filter salt using their roots and some use another method that is secreting it out in the backside of its leaf. Soaking with sea water most of the time, fresh water is scared. The mangrove leaves are thick succulent leaves with waxy substance so that it would minimum the water loss just like in some desert plants. Other than that, there are very little oxygen available in the intertidal area as the soil there yield little to none. They instead, find more ways to breathe which is quite obvious in the case of Avicennia that has vertical roots, the pneumatophores, that shoot upward which allow them to breathe by taking in oxygen in the atmosphere. Other type of root that also functions in the same way is the aerial roots. This can be seen in species like Rhizophora in which it can breathe through the lenticels , or the tiny pores use for breathing that will close during the high tides. These aerial roots also increase the plant’s base area which help stabilize it in those soft and muddy soil. As you might have pick up many things that have made it so difficult for a plant to survive. In this ecosystem, the abiotic factors are really crucial to the living things that the mangrove is supporting. Being located on the coastline, sea water and the tidal cycle is unavoidable. Plants have to cope with water that is much more saltier even in the estuary area. The land there is flooded twice a day which made it even more challenging for plants and animals. Consequently, the soil there is very soft and muddy with low oxygenation. Other normal abiotic factors include sunlight and air. The mangrove swamps all around the world are now facing many threats. Such an important ecosystem like this is disappearing because of us humans. They function as many things as they are a keystone of coastal ecosystem and the sea. The roots of theirs would make a perfect place for juveniles as it offers protection and they also filter some chemicals and garbage preventing them from entering the sea. It is home to many unique species such as the mudskippers breeding ground and resting spot for bird migration and also other birds for nesting. Not only animals are being protected by the mangrove but the coastline too. The mangrove’s roots can hold the sediments and the soil in place, protecting the coast from erosion. It also reduce the damages from the storm as it acts as a buffer zone, shielding land from waves and winds. The importance of the mangrove had only been made aware of a few decades ago when more than 50% of mangrove in the world was wiped out. What is left is also in a poor condition as people wasn’t aware of its great importance. The biggest threat is shrimp farming. Most of the mangrove swamps were turned into shrimp farms and that had led to further problems coming from this booming aquaculture industry. Humans change course of the water to feed on their farms and use a lot of chemicals and antibiotics to keep their shrimps from dying. Not only that it contaminates the water but the change of water course also affected the mangrove greatly. They won’t be able to disperse their seeds and the most concerning problem is the short freshwater supplies as it would kill the trees. We, us humans that keep poisoning and exploiting our own planet have to take actions before it is too late. One of the first thing to do is to raise the awareness of the problem and the importance of the mangrove swamps. Then many areas should be put under conservation and begin the process of reforestation. Shrimp farming, which is the biggest threat, needed to be far from the forest and the water courses and supplies should be restored and protected. Another way to raise awareness is ecotourism as it would help people understand the mangrove better and wanting to protect them. Mangrove is by far one of the most important and productive coastal ecosystems and yet, we failed to realize that. If we keep destroying and throw the nature off balance with our short sightings, the world wouldn’t be a beautiful planet with unique lives that depend on this balance anymore.

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