Mangroves: Photos of Plants and Animals

Mangrove is the name for a tree—and also for a complex ecosystem—that bridges land and sea. There are around 70 species of mangrove trees (meaning trees that can grow in salty water and soils), but they are not all closely related. The ability to live in a swampy, salty habitat evolved many times over millions of years resulting in a wide diversity of mangrove trees.

What do they have in common? Mangrove trees have unique adaptations to survive salt water, and their roots provide structure and habitat for organisms to grow upon and hide behind. With plentiful tiny food, mangroves are important nurseries for fish we like to eat. Up in their branches, unique tropical organisms thrive, some able to bridge the land-sea gap and others that never enter the sea. And once they die, mangrove leaves and branches are broken down and eaten by another set of organisms, many of them microscopic.

These ecosystems not only provide homes to many species, they also take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it, helping to reduce global warming and ocean acidification. Their numerous sturdy trunks protect coastal cities and towns from flooding during storms. It is estimated that a single hectare of mangrove can be worth $20,000 a year (or $8,100 per acre) in contributions to fisheries and coastal protection. Learn more about mangrove ecosystems.

Mangrove roots provide an underwater habitat for many marine species.
Sea anemones, brittle stars, and sea urchins make a home on mangrove roots.Mangrove roots help to build the peat underlying mangrove islands and protect against erosion.This slug caterpillar turns into a very plain brown moth with stinging spines.This orchid grows in the mangroves of Belize, providing beauty amidst the mud.Mangrove roots provide support for filter-feeders like mussels, oysters, and barnacles.A light brown gecko with medium brown markings, standing on a dead and weathered tree trunk.Arching mangrove roots help keep trunks upright in soft sediments at water’s edge.This is the most common songbird in the mangroves of the Caribbean’s Mangal Cay.A male mudflat fiddler crab (Uca rapax) waves its huge claw to impress females and threaten competitors.West Indian ManateeDr. Candy Feller is framed by the roots of a mangrove tree on Panama’s Pacific coast.A beautiful bromeliad blooms among the mud and roots of a mangrove swamp.Flattened against a leaf, a tree frog blends right in with the mangroves.Brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) nest in a mangrove in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.A lone mangrove shoot stands in the path of development in the Bahamas.Mangrove roots create a strong but permeable barrier to waves and currents in Belize.Fringing mangroves in Belize killed were smothered and killed by dredge material.Mangroves are being decimated by human development, like this shrimp farm in Belize.Mangroves are being decimated by human development, like this shrimp farm in Belize.Mangroves are being decimated by human development, like this shrimp farm in Belize.