Bahama Bob's Rumstyles

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mangroves: The Ecosystem

     Down in the Florida Keys the most prevalent of the mangroves are the Red Mangrove.  These are the ones that have their own exposed roots that stabilize and anchor the plant.   In addition to helping stabilize the plant, they collect soil around the roots that eventually form a small key to be born.  The new mangroves begin to grow primarily at the waters edge and as the sands and other soils collect around the root system the land begins to expand into the water. 

     Mangroves cannot take a freeze, that will kill them faster than anything, so down here in the tropical keys, the mangroves grow rather large.  The uninhabited keys north of the lower keys are prime growing area for the mangroves.   On these tiny islets, the can grow to some rather large heights.   For the most part the mangroves are untouched by people out here in waters outside of the larger keys, this is allowing them to virtually be the entire island.   There are many of the tiny keys that are made up of only mangrove, and the sandy material the the storms have washed into the roots.

    You will see many young mangroves popping up just off of the shore, and these are the ones as they grow that will enlarge the mangrove key that the previous plants have built.   The mangroves also drop roots down from the branches as they grow larger.  This is to stabilize the plant as it gets bigger.   As you paddle or drift through the channels in these mangrove keys you will see this all taking place.

     The mangroves are perfect for bird life in the area as well.  The Cormorants, Herons, Egrets, Kingfishers, Ospreys and Eagles call these mangroves home.  They are well protected from predators that raid the nests like Raccoons by nesting out in the mangroves.     The ecosystem also includes to the water under the plants as well, many species of fish make their home in the waters under the mangroves.  They utilize the shade and bask in the relative coolness of the waters.   The birds that live around the mangroves are primarily fish eating birds, so the heavy fish population in the vicinity is a real bonus for the birds as well.

     There are a few other types of mangrove found in this area like the White Mangrove.   This species can be noted by a more yellowish green leaf and the distinctive white flowers.   The mangroves are protected in the area and can only be trimmed or removes by permit and for a very good reason.

   Even as the older mangroves die out, they leave a beautiful monument to their passing.  The sea and sun bleached trunks stand out as you pass by these magnificent islands of plants.  ;o)