Mangrove trees are located in tropical regions around the world.
The term “mangrove” can mean a few different things: It can refer to a mangrove ecosystem or to an assortment of salt-tolerant plants growing in the same conditions, or it can be used to identify the tree itself. There are many different types of mangrove trees, and three of the truest and most recognisable species in the world are found here in the Cayman Islands: black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) and white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa). Each of the three has distinctive physical characteristics that set them apart from one another. However, all play the same huge roles in the island environment.
The black, red and white mangrove are all halophytes, which means that they are tolerant of salinity and can grow and thrive amidst high levels of salt that would normally have devastating effects on most plants. Mangrove trees, then, with their ability to grow strong and tall in an island setting, act as a windbreak, helping to protect the islands from tropical storms and hurricanes. Other important roles mangroves play include stabilising our coastlines, trapping sediment, and absorbing harsh salty water and air. Mangroves also absorb high levels of carbon dioxide, which, in the oceanic environment, can slow the warming of water temperatures.
Mangroves also make up entire ecosystems where one third of all marine species are born and raised. This ecosystem is also very important to other insects, birds, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans and mammals.
In Camana Bay, mangroves — primarily red — can be found along the shoreline of the canals connecting The Harbour to the North Sound, as well along the edges of The Harbour itself.
A local educational programme called “Marvellous Mangroves” was introduced in Cayman Islands schools in 2001 to teach Year 5 children about the importance of preserving the mangroves ecosystem. Earlier this year, the organisers of that programme launched a website at www.marvellousmangroves.org to support the initiative.