(Photo Credit: Aaron Adams)
(Photo Credit: Aaron Adams)

Mangrove Nurseries: Part 3

The white mangrove grows the highest up on the shore and farther away from the water. This mangrove is the least tolerant of cold weather so it is mostly found from Central Florida southward, in warm, tropical areas. The white mangrove has soft leaves that have a white fuzz on them, which is where they get their name. The white mangrove, similar to the black mangrove, also sweats out salt.

Mangroves are vital to the survival of so many important recreational fish species, and are important to the coastal ecosystem. As important nurseries for fish, crustaceans, birds and more, removal of mangrove communities can harm ecosystem health and have large economic impacts. Not only do these communities stop erosion and protect coastlines, but fish species that support huge recreational fisheries around Florida, such as snook and tarpon, rely on these ecosystems as safe places to grow up.

Unfortunately, mangroves are under threat worldwide: globally, approximately 35% of mangroves have been lost, and continue to be lost at a rate of 2% per year; in Florida, approximately 50% of mangroves have already been lost, and degradation of these habitats continues. The devastating effects of losing these mangrove communities has already been seen through declining tarpon populations, even contributing to the recent classification of tarpon as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means that tarpon are in need of strong conservation attention.

Today, cities and towns along with the state have created laws that limit further deforestation, including strict fines and even jail time if you illegally cut or trim mangroves. Over 80% of the mangroves living in Florida today are protected by law, though enforcement of these laws is generally lacking. However, even when coastal mangroves and salt marshes are protected, much of the uplands have been developed or their freshwater flow patterns altered, thus degrading habitat quality of the adjacent mangrove and marsh habitats. So even though many mangrove habitats don’t appear to have suffered direct damage (such as from clearing or dredging), the effects of upland habitat degradation on them is just as damaging.

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