As you travel along the coastline of Roatán, you will see beautiful trees with their dense tangle of roots submerged in the sea, creating tunnel-like, canopy waterways. These are mangrove forests.
Mangrove forests thrive in seemingly inhospitable environments in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Their stilt-like roots handle high and low tides and the high salt content of the sea. Just as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is home to hundreds of marine species, mangrove forests are among the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Their complex root systems provide shelter for numerous marine organisms, including shrimp and fish. Juvenile fish will often stay in the mangroves, protected from predators, until they are old enough to move to the coral reef. The land component of mangrove forests provides shelter and breeding grounds for migratory birds and monkeys.
Photograph by Shawn Jackson
Mangroves are completely essential to the overall health of Roatán. Without mangroves, the coastal ecosystem of Roatán will collapse. Marine species will no longer have breeding grounds, shelter, or access to a steady food source. Mangroves also capture pollutants and carbon that would otherwise go into the ocean or back on land, not only affecting wildlife, but the citizens of Roatán. Additionally, a buffer between storms and the island is created by the thickets of mangroves, greatly reducing the wave and wind damage to the island. Without the mangroves, coastline erosion would occur at a rapid rate, which leads to flooding.
The mangrove forests of Roatán are at risk. The clearing and overharvesting of mangroves, pollution and overfishing lead to mangrove destruction. To begin rebuilding the mangrove forests of Roatán, the Abundant Life Foundation partnered with the Bay Islands Conservation Association and Roatán Marine Park to plant mangrove seedlings in Sandy Bay in an area where they had previously been removed due to development. Our efforts to protect the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef also protect the health of the mangrove forests.
We will continue to develop partnerships in the Bay Islands to educate locals and tourists of the importance of marine life, the reef and the mangrove forests. If you are planning to visit Roatán, please read and follow our Top 10 Ways to Protect the Reef factsheet.