Long viewed by developers as a wasted areas to be dredged or filled, mangrove swamps and lagoons are an essential component to the food chain and to human life. Many of the juvenile fish and other sea creatures who feed on coral and algae live in the shelter of mangrove roots.
Mangrove root systems also filter storm water runoff, allowing sediment and other pollutants to be removed before entering open water. The sediment can otherwise cover and kill coral reef colonies. The run-off can be high in organic material, such as leaves from the forests. The decaying trapped organics provides nutrients for the various life forms in the mangrove swamps.
Mangrove areas also protect shorelines from erosion by waves and storms.
Many species of birds live in and around mangroves to feed on the insects breeding in the shallow waters or the small creatures living in the water or sediment.
The Red Mangrove species can be found growing in the clear water along shorelines, first in from the ocean. These are the mangroves that have ‘prop’ roots. Black Mangroves grow slightly further inland, in the shallow muddy areas of lagoons and salt ponds. These mangroves are noted for their ‘snorkel’ roots, which stick up out of the mud to collect oxygen. White Mangroves are found further inland, in saline ground where it is only slightly muddy. Buttonwood is a mangrove found last in succession inland, on drier saline soil.