Coastal environments link the land to sea and host a variety of animal and plant life not seen anywhere else, specifically mangrove forests. Mangrove forests can only be seen in tropical and subtropical locations where estuarine locations exist and grow in saline water. Mangroves serve some of the most important features on the coastal environment, including providing a home for countless marine organisms including some that not yet discovered. They also provide for local fisheries, lessen the impacts of natural disasters such as hurricanes, provide humans with forest products, and aid in pollution reduction such as alleviating the effects of greenhouse gases. Mangroves are tough and can withstand strong winds and rain and high tides. They can outlive a natural disaster and are tremendously salt tolerant living in the most uninhabitable places of the coastal environment. In fact, without mangrove forests, our coastal environments would be unhealthy and nonexistent.
Unfortunately, because of climate change and other factors, mangroves are decreasing at a serious pace. Without mangroves, our coastal environments are at serious risk along with many countries losing money due to the economic value that mangroves bring in. An article written by S. Sandilyan and K. Kathiresan (2012) states that, “This constant interference in mangrove forests has made the system to shrink in an alarming way at a faster rate than inland tropical forests and coral reefs. The global mangroves disappeared at a rate of 0.66 % per year during 2000–2005 periods. There was about 35 % of mangrove loss in the world from 1980 to 2000”. There are multiple factors that contribute to mangrove degradation and deforestation including natural disasters, exotic species, pollution, development, global warming, ecotourism, poor nutrients in water and soil, and over mistreatment of fisheries resources. There is no question that we need to fight to keep mangroves and provide more extensive, forceful applications toward human management to keep these forests that provide life to our coastal environment and offer economic benefits to humans.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Tampa Bay has lost nearly 50 percent of mangrove forests and Charlotte Harbor estuary has lost nearly 60 percent. On Florida’s East coast, while overall loss of mangrove acreage has not been severe, the construction of mosquito ditches and impoundments has resulted in nearly 85 percent of the mangroves in the Indian River Lagoon to be inaccessible and therefore unusable as nursery habitat for local fisheries. Fortunately, mangroves are currently protected by law in Florida to prevent future losses of these important coastal habitats.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a role in protecting wetlands, which include mangrove forests, by monitoring and assessment efforts. In Guyana, a country in South America, it is illegal to harvest mangroves. Most mangroves reside in places that are owned by county, federal or state governments, and non-profit organizations. Every part of our coastal environment has a different protection plan for mangroves. Mangrove conservation is not to be overlooked and should be taken with extreme measures to lessen the impacts of certain and or all mangrove extinction.
A suggestion regarding approaches to human management of mangrove forests would be to bring public awareness of the importance of mangroves. Humans are becoming separated with nature and are more than likely to not understand the impacts of losing them. Education at public and private schools concerning the effects of environmental impacts, especially wetlands, would be a great way to teach the importance of conservation starting with those at a young age. This in turn will impact our future efforts for conservation of mangroves. Focusing on ideas in the classroom from locals and traditional ecological knowledge will build a better understanding of mangrove preservation.
An article on a case study on the role of school engagement and environmental education from Mitchell, I., Ling, C., Krusekopf, C., & Kerr, S. (2015) states that, “rather than working on or for young people, we need to work with young people to develop in them, a culture and consciousness for critical learning and action, not only as citizens, but also as active agents of change in developing more sustainable futures.”
Our future of mangrove forests and our coastal environment solely depends on a younger generation that will be faced with the unforgiving effects of global warming. Shaping our younger generation to not just care, but to understand the environment that connects them with multiple resources will benefit their livelihood and the livelihood of marine animals and plant life along the coast in and around mangroves. Educating children about environmental issues is adaptive and well worth our time and resources. Due to the rapid degradation of mangrove forests, we are at a place that has no place to turn other than changing the hearts and minds of those who can change our future. Currently, there are secondary and public schools in the United States that offer environmental education, but few are actively participating in something that can change our environmental future for the better. Laws don’t always stop people from doing what is wrong, but education and understanding of why we need to preserve and keep alive the core of the coastal environment is crucial to getting results and keeping the forests around for many generations to experience the beauty and necessity of a mangrove forest.