Today is World Wetland Day – the theme this year is wetlands and tourism – a very appropriate subject for the dive hub. Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life.
I was surprised to see that coral reefs are classed as a wetland type, as when I think of wetlands I picture the typical estuarine areas such as mangroves and tidal areas. The importance of protecting coral reefs is fairly well recognised and documented. Coral reefs are also an integral part of dive tourism. However, mangroves are much less well known and talked about - but they are a vital part of the marine ecosystem.
”If there are no mangroves, then the sea will have no meaning. It is like having a tree without roots, for the mangroves are the roots of the sea…” Words of a Thai fisherman from the Andaman Coast.
The mangrove is where most juvenile fish species shelter before moving onto the reefs. Mangroves are one of the most threatened habitats in the world today, and tourism is a major culprit. Mangroves are cleared to make way for coastal resorts and developments. They are found in tropical and subtropical regions, just the sort of places where tourists like to go on holiday. The mangroves are viewed as obstructions to hotel views or simply just muddy swamps that prevent access to beaches.
I have visited a mangrove and it was amazing. I learnt about the fascinating functions of the plants and animals. It’s time that mangroves were appreciated as a wonderful resource to be used sustainably. Its time that they are recognised for the crucial roles they play, from carbon sink to fish nursery, they are a vital part of the planet. Coral reefs are intimately connected with mangroves. There’s no doubt that these are two wetlands that divers should be very grateful for!!
Find out more:
Dive volunteering and conservation organisation Blue Ventures have a Blue Carbon project which aims to protect the mangroves of Madagascar
The Mangrove Action Project is a great resource for all things mangroves!