A Mangrove swamp is a coastal, wetland ecosystem that is made up of small halophytic trees and is found in tropical and subtropical areas. This ecosystem is a major contributor to the marine environment because it provides additional niches to the shoreline species, such as fish, crabs, and birds. The mangrove swamp also serves as a two-fold buffer between water and land as it prevents shoreline erosion by stabilizing sediments and prevents the overloading of water with sand, as well as wind erosion.
The abundance of aquatic wildlife in areas with mangrove is many times more than in areas without, and as a result, mangroves are recognized as an important focus for fisheries.
A mangrove ecosystem is composed of various fauna and flora, but the mangrove plant is the most important component. Mangrove refers to one of any number of plants from various taxonomical families that grow in marshy, briny, brackish, or other types of coastal waters. For physiological reasons, these are limited to smallish trees and shrubs. Mangroves are classified according to the degree to which they have adapted to life on the coastline. Some types grow further out to sea than others, while others thrive exclusively in estuaries. Others yet have limited adaptations for dealing with salt. Mangroves’ adaptations have allowed it to survive in these harsh environment, and for the specialized plant, relocation out of the area is difficult. For this reason, the mangrove forests are trickier to replenish than other forests.
Like any other plant, mangroves have three main parts: roots, stem, and leaves. Besides the unusually salty environment in which they thrive, mangroves can be identified most readily by their roots, often seen as a tangle of roots arching up and down again like so many botanical octopus limbs. These aerial roots effectively raise the stem of the plant above the level of the water, (and in cases where mangrove plants grow near, not on the water, above the level of the land) and prevent waterlogging of the woody part of the plant. Occasionally, roots are known to grow out of the stem of the plant. The roots are a specialized fibrous root, rather than the traditional fibrous root system used by some of its land-bound cousins. Mangrove roots have openings called lenticels that help with the gas exchange process in the oxygen-poor coastal sediment.
Coastal areas are flooded twice daily, and these roots serve to anchor the plant, as well as anchor the sediment, thus retaining most of the nutrients near the roots. Mangroves can grow in mud, sand, or clay soil, as well as peat or coral.
Mangroves have many different leaf types, spread as it is across several families of plants.
There are three types of mangroves: Red, Black, and White. The black mangrove is the iconic plant with tangled roots and the most fertile type of mangrove. The red mangrove is an evergreen version, and the white mangrove grows the furthest inland but has evolved leaves that enable it to deal with the salinity of the environment in a unique way. The round leaves remove salt through their leaves, and the coating of the salt crystals on the surface of the leaves is what gives the mangrove its name.
As a coastal tropical country, Liberia has large areas of mangrove ecosystems.