Coastal ecosystems and climate change: the beauty of a mangrove tree

Some of you know I have recently moved to the shore of Kilifi Creek, by the Indian Ocean. I am volunteering in a beautiful community created around the Musafir project. Life near/ in a coastal settlement is beautiful, but also educative regarding the climate induced challenges on ground, especially for one that will work on ecosystem based adaptation in such regions.

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I know about mangrove trees from many articles and news on planting mangroves for reducing the risk of flooding. I never took time to ask myself why they are so helpful. I am blessed to live now on this small beach surrounded by good old baobab trees and mangroves. On high tide, the mangroves are covered by the salty water till up to their beautiful crown. On a low tide, their little roots spike up the and pinch the traveler’s bare feet while he`s lost his sight into the horizon: “the beauty is here at your feet” they seem like shouting.

Living on the shore, although beautiful, exposes me to more and more information about challenges and threats that come from both inland and the ocean. I will mention here the water: ocean waves splashing the shore but also the drained waste water from the town.

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Some of the beautiful lush beaches will always be found in developing areas, or not “developed” at all. Towns with no proper planning and no waste water system dump their waters into the open water. Most of the time, this waste will supply a poisonous circuit from stream to river, to delta straight into the wetland ecosystems. Now – on one hand, the coastal environment has to deal with all this alien material (mostly waste), and on the other hand they have to face winds and waves that irregularly come from the open water do to human induced climate changes.

20151114_102529One characteristic that makes mangroves amazing is the magic of their beautiful little roots. The roots pop up from the wet sand, and head to the sky for some centimeters, just enough to act as a barrier to the wave. Furthermore, the roots act as capturer of sand in high tide, and contribute to the natural construction of sand dams, very important in protecting the people who live so close to the shore from strong waves. This ecosystem based technique is a natural response to sea level rise, and applied in various regions around the world as an indigenous practice.

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The drained urban waste is a different issue to be discussed. If regular beach cleaning is being conducted for the collection of very visible dumped waste, the coastal ecosystem is charged with the responsibility to clean the water, or at least to lower the speed of the water flow so the drainage in the sea/ ocean will not disrupt the vulnerable marine ecology.

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What I find particularly amazing is the fact that sometimes I see mangrove seeds in the water. They float in vertical position, with one quarter length above the water, a little bended as if the seed is searching for the perfect spot to plant itself: where its future crown, and for its future roots are most needed.

Feeling inspired,

Oana

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