Life on land

Compared to the rainforest in the Amazon, the mangrove forest is a relatively species-poor tropical forest, due to the extreme living conditions. Nevertheless, mangroves provide home for a variety of plants and animals (Nagelkercken et al., 2008).

Many species of birds and insects live in the crowns. Over 200 species of birds are known in Australia’s mangroves. Migratory bird species depend on the mangroves and adjacent tidal flats as hibernation and rest areas along their migration route.

The muddy, oxygen-poor soil is home to microbes, crabs, mussels and worms. Deer, boars, tigers, monkeys, snakes, monitor lizards and crocodiles also live in the shelter of the mangroves. Many of the native animals are already threatened with extinction.

Deforestation and forest degradation have led to the fact that around 16% of mangrove species and 40% of animals living in the ecosystem being endangered and/or threatened with extinction. The biodiversity of mangroves in the Malay Archipelago is the highest worldwide (Figure 1). The region contains between 36 and 46 of the 70 known mangrove species. Around 15% of the species in this region come within vulnerable categories. The highest proportion of threatened mangrove species can be found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central America (Figure 2) (Polidoro et al., 2010). Four of ten mangrove species found along the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia are listed in the Red List of Endangered Animal and Plant Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species).

Figure 1 Mangrove Species Richness: Native distributions of mangrove species. Not shown are introduced ranges: Rhizophora stylosa in French Polynesia, Bruguiera sexangula, Conocarpus erectus, and Rhizophora mangle in Hawaii, Sonneratia apelata in China, and Nypa fruticans in Cameroon and Nigeria (Reference: Polidoro et al., 2010).
Figure 2 Proportion of threatened (critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable) mangrove species (Reference: Polidoro et al., 2010).