Today’s Editorial May 17: Mangroves desperately needed

There are so many things throughout the world that we as human beings take for granted on a daily basis.

Many of those things offer us and other life forms sustenance. In most instances we don’t notice them until they’re gone.

That’s the case of the humble mangrove in the Cayman Islands.

We pass by them daily, but most of us don’t appreciate their importance to us and the island.

Thankfully, the National Trust is trying to rectify our ignorance through mangrove boat tours.

Seating space on the tours is limited so that participants get the full impact of the importance of mangroves.

Mangrove trees are indigenous to the Cayman Islands and are a major contributor to our marine environment.

The mangrove tree is a halophyte, which means it thrives in salty conditions and has the ability to grow where no other trees can.

Mangroves contribute four major functions toward health of the environment; in soil formation and the stabilization of coastlines, as filters for upland runoff, as habitats for marine organisms and as highly productive ecosystems.

Mangroves are magical.

They store energy from the sun and nutrients from silt within their leaves.

The trees produce leaves year-round, shedding and growing new leaves on a continual basis.

As the leaves fall, the leaf litter provides the foundation for nearby marine and terrestrial food chains.

With this huge supply of food, the mangrove swamps are a nursery ground for most sport and commercial fish species. As a result, mangrove-based energy and nutrients are exported to surrounding coral reefs and grass beds.

Mangrove forests the world over also serve as protection for coastal communities against harsh storms, such as hurricanes.

Many of Cayman’s mangroves were destroyed in Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

But many have been replanted thanks to volunteers who know the importance of the mangroves.

We can all do our part to make sure that Cayman’s mangroves survive.

The next time you gaze upon mangroves, realize their importance to the ecology and economy of the Cayman Islands.

Educate yourself about mangroves and all that they do.

To get up close and personal with the mangroves, call the National Trust at 949-9012 and sign up for a mangrove boat tour.

And if the spirit moves, help replant mangroves where they were lost to bad weather.

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