Mangrove trees play a vital role in storing planet-heating carbon dioxide and protecting communities from storms and coastal erosion. But these forests aren't growing fast enough to escape rising sea levels and could disappear by 2050, according to new research. That threshold could be reached in as little as 30 years if people don't cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
Mangrove trees do a lot of good for people and the planet. Restoring mangrove forests in places like Florida helps to defend coastal communities from the ravages of climate change. Mangrove forests are actually twice efficient in trapping carbon-dioxide than rainforests. But mangroves can only save us if we save them first. Sea levels are already rising globally at a rate of more than 3 millimetres a year.
Mangrove roots can actually pull freshwater from salty seawater and serve as a nursery for fish, crustaceans, and shellfish. But if their roots are completely submerged for too long, the mangroves will drown. One-fifth of the world's mangroves already perished between 1980 and 2010. The trees can usually adapt to rising water by moving inland, but human development along coastlines now blocks their way.
Governments should find solutions to reduce the use of fossil fuels and giving mangroves more time and space to adapt to the changing world. Otherwise, with their extinction, there will be nothing to protect millions from the rage of the mighty ocean.