Young mangrove starting life in the seagrass beds
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April 5, 2021

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Tony Rath
Editorial, assignment & stock photography from Belize. Pictures, images and photos of nature, people, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker & San Igacio, Cayo. Tony Rath is a professional photographer based along the shore of the Caribbean Sea in the picturesque town of Dangriga, Belize. He is a trained marine biologist and has worked as a diver and underwater photographer for the Smithsonian Institution; diving on oil rigs off California; and captaining a sailboat across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Mediterranean and North Seas. He founded, along with his wife Therese, Naturalight Productions, Belize's premiere Internet marketing company. He now leads the special projects division of the company. The company created and manages numerous award winning websites.
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Young mangrove starting life in the seagrass beds

Science says the normal succession is seagrass, mangroves, sand and palm tree island. But with sea level rise due to climate change, will this process hold?

Why are mangroves so important to the environment?

1. they provide habitat to thousands of species
2. they can grow in various types of soil
3. their roots provide coastal protection from storms
4. they store more carbon than rain forests.

Mangroves are the only species of trees in the world that can tolerate saltwater. But how do they deal with otherwise toxic levels of salt? They excrete it through their waxy leaves.

Red mangroves reproduce differently from other plants and trees. Most other species of flora produce immature seeds that are spread away from the plant by the wind or by animals.

Mangrove seeds are not actually seed, but are mature propagules. In much the same way that a baby isn't born until it has reached a certain level of maturity inside the womb, mangrove propagules don't tend to drop from the tree until they've reached a certain level of maturity when their chances of surviving are greater.

Once they've dropped from the tree, the propagule will ride the current until they are beached somewhere in the shallows where if they're lucky, they will take root and form, or become part of vital mangrove ecosystems. The propagules can float for up to a year on the currents before they expire and die, so they've plenty of time to find somewhere to beach.

Top photograph by Tony Rath, red mangrove photos by ACES / American Crocodile Education Sanctuary

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