OF RÍA LAGARTOS BIOSPHERE RESERVE
The word "mangroves" refers to a special community of plants and animals occurring in tropical and semitropical zones that are inundated permanently or occasionally with saltwater. You find mangroves intermittently along all the Yucatan's coasts and surrounding islands. Few ecosystems are as rich in species and shear numbers of living things, and are so important to the broader ecological community as mangroves.
However, mangroves are also very fragile. They are vulnerable to hurricanes, human drainage programs and "development." In many tropical countries, including Mexico, mangroves are being destroyed to make way for urban expansion, hotels and beach-front homes.
Mangroves protect an exceptionally vulnerable part of the coastal ecosystem: That part of the land between the low tide and high tide marks. Most of the time this land quietly bakes and simmers beneath the tropical sun, but when storms come -- especially hurricanes -- mangrove species hold the land together.
Without them the storm surge would reach far deeper inland. Without them, barrier islands might be completely scoured away. The picture at the right shows roots and stems of the Red Mangrove forming a tangle capable of breaking up or at least slowing down all but the biggest of storm waves that might crash into them.
They also maintain water quality and clarity by filtering pollutants and building the land by trapping sediment that otherwise might wash into the sea.
to look for in Ría Lagartos Biosphere's mangrove ecosystems:
(click names to see and read about)
The mangroves' tangle of roots and stems provide protected nursery areas for shrimp and other crustaceans, mollusks, and fishes. Thus they are critical for the commercial and recreational fishing industries. Huge numbers of migratory birds occupy the mangroves.