T ROPICAL and sub-tropical mangroves are the richest and most diverse ecosystems
known in the world.
Mangroves are collectively 42 different species of
trees and shrubs adapted to salt and tidal waters with special aerial roots and
salt filtering taps.
Asia boasts almost half the 52 million acres of the
world's coastal tropical mangroves; Cambodia estimates it has between 37,000 to
84,000 acres, mostly in Koh Kong, though that wildly fluctuating guess only
highlights the need for more research.
Thailand and Vietnam have had
their mangrove forests devastated by war and "development", as have other
Mangroves are nurseries and spawning grounds for much of the
world's commercial fish stocks, which thrive in the rich organic nutrients -
forest detritus - which drop to the sea.
The forests' root systems act as
a buffer between land and sea, stabilizing sediments, sea grass and weed and
coral reefs and the forest also prevents shoreline erosion from tide, waves and
Humans have used mangroves for thousands of years for fuel,
building materials and medicines.
The amount of animal species dependent
on the mangroves is vast - crabs, monkeys, shrimps, fish and shellfish - complex
and still far from understood.