Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

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About sharks and mangroves

Mangrove forests are one of the most productive marine habitats and can annually generate 500 kilograms of seafood per hectare annually, in the process absorbing significant amounts of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities.

Mangroves also protect coastal communities from heavy storms and large waves. Small fish live and find shelter between the roots, and the mangove roots protect coasts against erosion. The fallen mangrove leaves can even be used for food and shelter.

 

Juvenile lemon shark in mangroves, picture by Kristine Stump

Unfortunately, our planet has already lost half of it mangrove forests, in the last 50 years, mostly  due to fish and shrimp farming, tourism, agriculture, tourism and construction of houses, roads and marinas.

The current rate of mangrove loss is approximately 1% per annum (according to the Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO), or roughly 150,000 hectares (370,050 acres) of mangrove wetlands lost each year.

Mangroves also play an essential role in the reproduction of several shark species, like the lemon shark. If we want to protect shark populations, we have to protect shark nurseries, refuges and habitats as well. And a more unexpected relation is the one between whale sharks and mangroves. Mangroves provide essential nourishment for plankton bloom, that attracts whale sharks.

If we lose our mangrove forests, we could lose species: not only sharks, but also other species of fish and invertebrates, that are part of our blue planet’s ecosystem. In several countries, there are mangrove restoriation projects, like in Indonesia and the Philippines.

 More information:

Applying Individual-Based Modeling Techniques To Address Potential Impacts of Essential Habitat Loss In A Lemon Shark Nursery, current research on Bimini: http://www6.miami.edu/sharklab/research_Stump.html

Mangrove restoration projects of IUCN on several locations:

http://www.iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/asia/regional_activities/mangroves_for_the_future/

Why planting mangroves is good news for whale sharks

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/donsol-whale-shark.html#cr

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