The biology of mangroves
Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees that grow in the intertidal zones of sub-tropical and tropical regions. They support biodiversity and local communities by protecting the coast from erosion, providing nursery habitats for multiple marine species, and supporting livelihoods.
Mangroves capture and store carbon via photosynthesis, transforming the atmospheric CO2 into vegetation as the mangrove grows. This is the same process as terrestrial trees. The main difference is in the sediment in which mangroves grow: due to the waterlogged nature, the carbon that mangroves capture through photosynthesis, as well as other organic matter from the water, can be locked into the ground below. However, if the mangrove forest is degraded, the stored carbon is released.
Threats to mangroves
Mangroves face many threats worldwide: deforestation to make way for coastal development and aquaculture ponds, pollution, sedimentation, and cutting for timber which leads to forest degradation and deforestation.
In Kenya, cutting of mangrove timber is the biggest threat that these forests face. Coastal communities rely on the wood for building materials and firewood. Poverty is the main driver of this degradation in Kenya; people rely on mangrove timber for sustenance and their livelihoods.
Nationally, around 2% of Kenyan mangrove forests are lost every year.