How Mangrove Trees Can Help the Climate Crisis

January 4, 2023
by Anna Eyler

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You’ve likely heard the projections -- we need to reduce global CO2 emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5℃. If we are unable to reach that goal, temperatures will increase by 2℃, causing even more damage to the environment and displacing or harming millions of people. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are beacons of hope all around us. This includes one of nature’s best carbon-capturing mechanisms: the mangrove tree. 

Mangroves are one of the most resilient tree species on the planet. They are able to live in saltwater, under hot and muddy conditions that would kill most plants. Mangrove trees can be found in tropical and subtropical coastal areas around the world. 

These amazing trees can capture and store an incredible amount of carbon from the atmosphere, making them important tools in the fight against the climate crisis. Mangrove trees remove 680 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere throughout their lifetime. Many researchers emphasize the benefits of restoring and maintaining mangrove populations in their native regions in order to slow climate change.

Other Environmental Benefits

When most people think of climate change, the first thing that comes to mind is rising temperatures from excess CO2 in the atmosphere. While this is incredibly important to consider, there are also many other consequences of climate change that often exacerbate one another. Biodiversity loss, water pollution, coastal erosion, economic losses, and increased flooding are all results of climate change and human activities. Luckily for us, mangrove trees can mitigate all of these problems.

Biodiversity loss and climate change are inextricably linked. As average global air and sea temperatures rise, organisms are being forced out of their native habitats and becoming extinct. Populations of organisms that were once prey of the displaced or dying species may then grow out of control, causing even more ecosystem disruption. 

Mangroves provide healthy habitats for organisms as small as bacteria and as large as Bengal tigers. They provide breeding grounds for many species of fish and shellfish; juveniles use mangrove roots as protection while they grow and prepare for life in the open ocean. In Madagascar, mangroves are home to one of the most endangered mammals on Earth -- lemurs. Maintaining and increasing the number of mangrove trees will ensure the millions of organisms that live in these habitats can continue to call them home.

In addition to providing habitats to thousands of species, these multi-talented trees are also incredible water filters. Agricultural runoff generally produces a significant amount of pollution in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus. These excess nutrients can trigger a process called eutrophication. Algae and other plants use the excess nutrients to grow and reproduce at accelerated rates. During this process, these organisms use more than their share of dissolved oxygen, which decreases the oxygen levels available to other organisms, such as fish. Eutrophication can result in dead zones, in which little to no organisms can survive. When mangrove roots absorb seawater, they also absorb the excess nutrients in the water and store them, allowing ecosystems to remain in balance.

Economic and Community Benefits

The climate crisis disproportionately affects island nations and those experiencing poverty, but the planting and presence of mangrove trees can strengthen local economies. The Salt mangrove tree project pays local villagers who are experiencing poverty to plant and maintain mangrove trees in Madagascar through their partnership with Eden Projects. These workers can then spend their wages in their community, stimulating the local economy. 

The presence of mangrove trees can also attract eco-tourists. The beautiful canopies and array of wildlife draw travelers, who learn about the importance of these magnificent trees while spending money in the local communities.

In addition to providing shelter to many organisms, mangrove trees -- and especially their roots -- provide protection for humans in the form of flood mitigation. One study in Florida found that the presence of mangroves on coastlines protected 626,000 people across the state and prevented $1.5 billion in property damage during natural disasters like Hurricane Irma. Researchers found that wave height was reduced by 66 percent by only 100 yards of mangroves. In addition to their economic value, mangroves can prevent injuries and deaths during natural disasters.

How You Can Help Plant More Mangroves 

There’s no denying that these beautiful trees are a climate change-fighting powerhouse. When you plant trees with Salt, you’re fighting biodiversity loss, removing pollutants from our water, protecting coastlines from flooding and erosion, alleviating poverty, and stimulating  economies. 

As an individual, you can offset the emissions from your vehicle, a flight, or your overall carbon footprint by planting mangroves with Salt. Brands can also partner with Salt to join in on the climate crisis by creating exclusive offers for Salt members and having trees planted by Salt on behalf of the brand per offer redemption. As a consumer, you can choose to buy from brands that demonstrate their care for the environment, such as those that partner with Salt.

A single solution to climate change doesn’t exist, but planting and maintaining mangrove populations is one very important piece of the puzzle.