Mangroves—An Unrecognized Value as Part of Paradise

Centro Ecológico Akumal
February, 2008

Once again, mangrove protection is being questioned in Mexico. There is a federal law that protects mangroves but it is under attack from developers. We have not found a way yet to promote economic growth while protecting important ecosystems that serve as part of the natural capital base of the tourism industry along the coast.

Mangroves are wetland forests growing in coastal areas. They are essential for marine and coastal ecosystem interaction. Four mangrove species are found in the Yucatán Peninsula: Red, White, Black and Buttonwood. They are located in the tropics and subtropics of the planet; they are on the coasts of Latin America, from Mexico to Peru. Mangroves have great biotic productivity and they grow up at the tidal zones and flooded areas. They can adapt to different salinities and water temperatures because they are in contact with sea water and fresh water, and they are located on sandy, muddy, clay soils, with little oxygen.

Ecologically, mangroves serve as a natural balance for flood and erosion control, filter sediment and toxic substances, and purify water that flows into the sea. They also absorb salts from water that flows inland from the sea, are a source of organic matter, produce vegetation, serve as carbon sinks, protect us from tropical storms and help in microclimate stabilization.

It must be emphasized that Mexico had advanced federal protection of these ecosystems when it published the General Wildlife Law in 2007, with strict protection measures, establishing the conservation of almost 900 thousand hectares of the nation’s mangroves. However, changes to this law are again being promoted, which would weaken mangrove protection, allowing them to be drained and filled in for hotel and golf course construction. Many environmental groups are working to ensure mangrove protection.

Why are mangroves important?
• An estimated 75 percent of fish caught commercially spend some time in the mangroves or are dependent on food chains that can be traced back to these coastal forests.
• Without the mangroves, the shrimp and fish that support many of the tropical coastal communities of the world could not exist.
• In addition to being an important habitat for fish and wildlife, mangroves absorb sediments that could cloud the water and cause the coral reefs to die.
• Mangroves have also been shown to absorb pollution such as heavy metals, thus preventing their introduction into the marine ecosystem.
• Mangroves help reduce the impact of storms and the forces of erosion.

What are some of the threats to mangroves?
• The main threat in this region is development. When the mangroves are cleared for hotels and resorts, water quality issues become a concern as the primary filter and erosion prevention is reduced. This also removes valuable habitat for a variety of species.
• Globally, shrimp farming is also a threat, with thousands of acres being cleared for shrimp farms.
• Mangrove wood is harvested for construction, charcoal, and tannin used in leather treatment.

We must find a way to protect mangroves for everyone’s benefit while developing coastal tourism destinations.

To learn more about mangroves, please see: Mangrove Website
Forestry Website
Mangrove Action Project
PDF File on Mangroves(1.79 MB)

Balamku Inn Video ad