When I went to the Galapagos I stayed at the Red Mangrove Lodge, an eco-lodge actually built within the mangroves in Puerto Ayora. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by these trees on all sides. To get to the reception area, we walked on a path surrounded by the trees on both sides. Once we checked into our room, we looked out the window and saw more mangroves, and beyond the mangroves – the bay. Within the trees of the mangrove we saw salty light-foot crabs and different birds species. Staying in the middle of the mangroves was truly a unique experience which piqued my curiosity about these trees and how they grow in salt water. I wanted to share some of my favorite facts about these unique trees.
- Red mangrove trees can survive in salt water because their roots filter out over 90% of the salt from the rest of the plant. Salt which does manage to get in is concentrated in old leaves, which the plant then sheds.
- Mangrove trees have unique root systems which allow them to survive in flooded areas and in higher ground. Red mangroves prop themselves above the water level with stilt roots and can then absorb air through pores in their bark. Black mangroves live on higher ground and grow root-like structures which stick out of the soil like a straw for breathing.
- Mangrove tree seeds are buoyant and uniquely adapted to survive in the ocean. The red mangrove can grow ready-to-go-seedlings while still attached to the parent tree. Once the seedling is ready, it drops into the water where it can float (due to its buoyancy) and travel great distances until it finds a suitable environment to root.
- Mangrove trees are an important basis for marine ecosystems. Many animals find shelter either in the roots or branches of mangroves. Mangroves serve as nesting areas for coastal birds, and as I saw in the Galapagos – a resting area for Galapagos white-tipped reef sharks and rays!
- The intricate above-ground root systems of mangrove trees protect coastlines. Wave energy may be reduced by 75 per cent in the wave’s passage through 200 metres of mangrove. Mangroves have been reported to be able to help buffer against tsunami, cyclones, and other storms. Elsewhere in the world, mangrove trees have been planted specifically for protection from tsunamis. The Guinness Book of World Records was the planting of 80,244 saplings in Naluvedapathy, India.
The Galapagos are famous for the animals, but the plants are also a fascinating part of a Galapagos vacation. Besides the mangrove trees covering the coastlines, you will also see Galapagos tree cactus, and the Galapagos poisonous apple tree, and Galapagos cotton.