Understanding the Functions of Mangrove Forests for the Environment

The Function of Mangrove Forests – Of course, most of the Sinaumed’s already know what a mangrove forest is, right? Where this mangrove forest is one of the main subjects for environmental development in Indonesia. But, what exactly are the definitions, characteristics, and functions of mangrove forests? So, for more details, in this article we will discuss more about the functions of mangrove forests and their meanings. Listen until it’s finished.

So, this mangrove forest is a type of forest that consists of specific plant formations and we can usually find it in protected coastal areas in the tropics or subtropics. The word mangrove itself comes from a combination of Portuguese, namely mangue, and English, namely grove. Where in Portuguese, the word mangrove is used for individual plant species. Meanwhile, the word mangal is used for forest communities consisting of individual mangrove species.

Meanwhile in English, the word mangrove is used for a community of trees or grasses that grow in coastal areas or for individual types of other plants that grow and are associated with them. The examples of mangrove species that we can find in Indonesia are trees from mangrove species.

In Indonesia alone, mangrove forests that grow and develop here are around 8.6 hectares, of which 3.8 million hectares are in forest areas and also 4.8 million hectares outside forest areas. Damage to mangrove forests in forest areas is around 1.7 million hectares or 44.73 percent and for damage outside forest areas is 4.2 million hectares or 87.50 percent. Between 1982 and 1993 there was a reduction of 513,670 mangrove forests or around 46,697 hectares per year.

Mangrove forests are one of the main subjects for environmental development in Indonesia. Many social institutions engaged in the environmental sector continue to socialize the benefits of mangrove forests for the environment. These conditions support public awareness that mangrove forests are indeed very important to protect the environment. Preserving the mangrove forest area is a very good effort to stabilize environmental conditions and also save all the habitats in the mangrove forest. We can find this mangrove area in several areas in Indonesia, such as in Bangka Belitung Regency.

Definition of Mangrove Forest According to Experts

Mangrove forest is a forest ecosystem consisting of groups of trees that can live in an environment with high salt content. One of the characteristics of mangrove plants is that they have roots that stick out to the surface. The appearance of the mangrove itself looks like a stretch of shrubs that separates the land from the sea. This mangrove forest is a group of woody plant species that grow along tropical and subtropical coastlines that are protected and have a kind of coastal landform with anaerobic soil types or soils with limited oxygen levels.

In order to better understand what is the meaning of mangrove forests, here are some definitions of mangrove forests according to experts, including:

1. Saenger

In general, Saenger said that the definition of mangrove forest is one of the forest formations that are affected by the presence of sea tides with anaerobic soil conditions.

2. Sukarjo

According to him, mangrove forests are a group of plants consisting of various kinds of plants from different families. However, they have the same morphological and physiological adaptability to habitats that are affected by tides.

3. Soerianegara

According to him, mangrove forests are forests that grow on alluvial mud in coastal areas and river estuaries and their existence is always influenced by sea tides. Mangrove forests consist of various plant species such as the genera Avicennia, Sonneratia, Rhizophora, Bruguiera, Ceriops, Lumnitzera, Excoecaria, Xylocarpus, Scyphiphora and Nypa.

4. Tomlinson

The definition of mangrove forest as a plant that grows in tidal areas or as a community.

Characteristics of Mangrove Forests

In the book entitled Geography: Exploring the Earth and the Universe for Class XI by Hartono, the following are the characteristics of mangrove forests:

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– The type of vegetation will be affected by the process of tides.
– This mangrove forest vegetation has a vegetation root system which is partly above the water surface.
– The types of vegetation in the mangrove forest include nipah and mangroves.
– The root system in plants in mangrove forests has a function as a means of respiration and also traps mud from tidal events.

Mangrove Forest Function

According to Asihing Kustanti in his book entitled “Mangrove Forest Management”, there are about three functions of mangrove forests, namely as follows:

1. Biological and Ecological Functions

Mangrove forests have a biological function as a breeding ground for animals and plants that live in the area. Where this function is influenced by abiotic components in the surrounding environment. Ecologically, this mangrove forest will provide benefits as a result or life for living things. That means, living things can hide from external attacks and obtain food.

2. Social and Economic Functions

Most of the people who live around the forest use mangrove forests to improve their standard of living. Plants in the mangrove forest itself can be used as a source of livelihood. Where the plants in the mangrove forest are generally used as construction materials, firewood, tourism, crafts, and so forth.

3. Physical Function

Physical function is a function related to physical environmental conditions, such as soil conditions, and so on. The physical function of mangrove forests can be used to prevent abrasion and protect ecosystems from big storms.

Benefits and Functions of Mangrove Forests

The benefits and functions of mangrove forests are actually felt by coastal communities. Various studies have been carried out and prove that mangrove forests play an important role for coastal life. The benefits and functions of the mangrove forest itself include:

1. Habitat for Endangered Animals

Mangrove forests are often the habitat of various types of wildlife. There are more than 100 species of birds growing and developing in this mangrove forest ecosystem and the vast mud plains directly adjacent to the mangrove forest is the landing place for thousands of shorebirds, including the rare Asian Blekok bird species. In addition, there are many other animals that generally exist in mangrove forests such as long-tailed monkeys, white-faced monkeys, and types of sea water animals such as shrimp, crabs, molluscs, including reptiles such as the crocodile species Caiman crocodilus (Lagarto cuajipal).

There are also other mammals including the Royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris), leopards (Panthera pardus) and spotted mussels (Axis axis), wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and mouse deer (Tragulus sp.), otters ( Aonyx cinerea and Lutra sp.) are also common in mangrove forests, but they are rarely seen. As for dolphins such as the Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica) and the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) we can also be found in rivers where there are mangrove forests, namely Manatees (Trichechus senegalensis and Trichechus manatus latirostris) and Dugong ( Dugong dugon), although these species are rare and in some places are threatened with extinction.

2. Protection Against Natural Disasters

Mangrove forests can prevent natural disasters, because one of the main functions of mangrove forests is to protect the coastline from abrasion and to dampen large waves which include natural disasters such as tsunamis. In addition, the existing vegetation in mangrove forests can also protect wet and dry agricultural crops or other natural vegetation from damage due to storms or salt-laden winds through the filtration process.

3. Sludge Deposition and Nutrient Enhancement

The physical properties of plants in mangrove forests can help the process of sludge deposition. Where this is closely related to the removal of toxins and also water nutrients which are often bound to the mud particles themselves. With the existence of mangrove forests, water quality will be maintained from silt deposits due to soil erosion and coastal abrasion.

4. Nutrient Enhancer

One of the physical properties of mangrove forests is to slow down the flow of water types due to the density in each tree and also its roots. So that it will make the sludge settle. The settling of the mud will certainly be very beneficial for mangrove forests because a lot of mud is carried from the rice fields. So that a lot of mud contains nutrients that can be utilized by all plant species in mangrove forests.

5. Poison Tethering

There are many poisons that enter aquatic ecosystems bound to the surface of the mud or present between the lattice molecules of water particles. These poisons may be transported from land areas through waters such as waste and garbage, then will end up in the open sea. Several plant species in mangrove forests can also actively help the process of fixing poisons brought from the mainland.

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6. Sources of Germplasm

Germplasm is one of the most valuable natural resources for life and has many benefits for the improvement of commercial animal species or for maintaining the wild life population itself in the future as a support for advances in scientific technology and for supporting the development of a region.

7. Recreation as well as Tourism

Mangrove forests also have aesthetic value, both natural factors and the life in them. Where this mangrove forest will provide a tourist attraction that is different from other tourist objects. The characteristics of mangrove forests that are in transition between land and sea are considered unique for tourists. So that it becomes one of its own advantages for mangrove forests.

Tourism activities in mangrove forest areas besides being able to grow the economy of the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities and also business opportunities around mangrove forest areas and coastal ecosystems, can also maintain the balance of the environment and forest ecosystems, especially mangrove forests.

8. Educational and Research Facilities

Mangrove forests are used in an effort to develop science and technology. As a country with the largest mangrove forest area in the world, Indonesia definitely needs field laboratories that can be used for research and educational activities. Therefore, mangrove forests are used as a means for educational activities related to ecology.

9. Carbon Absorber

According to several studies, one hectare of mangrove forest can absorb 110 kg of carbon and a third of it is in the form of organic deposits in the mud. The process of photosynthesis will change inorganic carbon in the form of dioxide into organic carbon in the form of vegetation material. In most forest ecosystems, this one material will decompose and release carbon back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. However, mangrove forests actually contain some organic matter that does not decompose. Therefore, mangrove forests have a function to absorb carbon rather than as a source of carbon release. This is because the plants in the mangrove forest have many leaves. So it has more potential to absorb carbon in large quantities compared to other plants.

10. Maintains Microclimate

Mangrove forest evapotranspiration can maintain humidity and also rainfall in the area. So that the climate around areas with mangrove forests will be maintained by a microclimate which depends on several factors such as humidity, temperature, wind, and also sunlight. This microclimate is a factor of the physical conditions of the climate that is influenced by a relatively small area, only a few tens of meters or even only a few meters. These conditions are in the bowels of the earth or under the canopy of trees. The microclimate in the mangrove forest can also be influenced by wind, topography, and also the vegetation in the mangrove forest.

11. Growing Islands and Stabilizing Beaches

One of the roles and benefits of mangrove forests for the environment is the mangrove root system which is quite complex and dense. In addition, the thick roots of plants in mangrove forests can also trap the remains of organic matter and sediment carried by sea water from the mainland. This process keeps sea water clean and thus will be beneficial for the maintenance of seaweed or coral reefs. Because of that process, mangrove forests often grow coastline developments from time to time.

This mangrove growth can expand the boundaries of coastal ecosystems and provide opportunities for terrestrial plants to live and develop in the mainland. The roots of trees in mangrove forests can also protect the coast from the dangers of soil erosion and beach abrasion. In addition, viviparous fruit in mangrove forests are also often carried away by coastal currents and scattered into mangrove forests in new habitats. Over a long period of time, this new habitat can expand and become its own island.

12. Protects and Provides Nutrition

This mangrove forest will produce nutrients that can fertilize sea waters, both inorganic and organic nutrients. With an average high primary production of mangrove forests, mangrove forests can also maintain the sustainability of fish, shellfish and other brackish water animal populations. Apart from that, mangrove forests are also a breeding ground for several types of animals such as crabs, shrimp, and brackish water fish.

This is an explanation of the benefits and functions of mangrove forests for the environment and the people who live around them. It is necessary for us to always maintain the preservation of mangrove forests so that the balance of nature is maintained.

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