Mangroves are Florida's true native sons. They grow in salty environments because they can get fresh water from saltwater. Some discharge excess salt through their leaves, while others stop the absorption of salt at the roots.
Florida's has over 465,000 acres of mangrove forests that contribute to the total health of the state's southern coastal zone. This ecosystem traps and cycles numerous chemical elements, essential nutrients, and organic materials. Mangrove roots serve not only as traps but offer attachment surfaces for several marine organisms. Several of these attached organisms seep water through their bodies, and the result is the trapping and cycling of nutrients.
The connection between mangroves and their marine life can’t be exaggerated. Mangroves offer shielded nursery areas for crustaceans, shellfish, and jellyfish. They also give food for a multitude of marine life like snapper, red drum, tarpon, snook, shrimp, jack, sheepshead, and oyster. Florida's crucial commercial and recreational fisheries would severely decline without healthy mangrove forests.
Many animals seek shelter either in the branches or roots of mangroves. Mangrove branches or rookeries are nesting areas for amazing coastal birds like spoonbills and pelicans.
Mangroves are a vital part of the estuarine food chain, creating vast quantities of leaf litter. Leaves fall from the mangroves and are rapidly decomposed by bacteria and fungus. This decayed matter is called detritus which is put into the estuary thanks to outbound tides. This offers a food source for marine life such as crabs, fish, and shrimp.
An estimated 90% of the commercial species and 75% of the game fish in South Florida depend on the mangrove system for at least part of their life cycle.
There are over 80 numerous species of mangrove trees. All of these trees foster in areas with soil that is low in oxygen. This is also where waters that move slowly let fine sediments accumulate. Mangrove forests only develop at subtropical and tropical latitudes near the equator because they can’t fight freezing temps.
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