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Mangroves: the facts

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

countries.

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

storms.

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.

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