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- Research & Conservation
Established in 2012, our Shoreline Ecosystem is a living reconstruction of the habitat created by mangroves, designed so that visitors and students can experience it in safety inside our Centre. The exhibit contains red mangrove trees at various stages of growth, as well as juvenile fish, conch, and sea fans too.
Here are 7 facts you might not know about mangroves:
There are three types of mangroves: Red, Black, and White. Red mangroves are best adapted to very salty conditions. They are called “Red” because they have reddish inner bark. They are easily identified by their distinctive prop roots, which act like stilts, naturally lifting the trees right out of the water. Every part of the Red mangrove is designed to help it thrive in saltwater. Their leaves have a waxy coating that prevents loss of freshwater, just like a cactus. They can also excrete salt, which appears in crystals on the leaf surface. As mangrove leaves fall and decay, they break down to form the basis of soil, mixing with silt trapped among the roots.
They are also able to colonize very salty water, which kills other trees. Their strong network of roots creates a framework which catches silt and soil that washes away from the land and stops it from smothering the delicate coral reefs, whilst providing a safe environment for baby fish, sea horses, and crabs to grow in. Black and White mangroves are then able to colonize the new ‘land’ that the Red mangroves create.
Mangroves act as a protective barrier against large waves, and storm-surges during a hurricane and can save millions of dollars on repairs, or the need to build expensive coastal defenses and walls. But unlike walls, mangroves just keep repairing themselves, year after year.
The dense mangrove root system provides a protective nursery for baby fishes before they are big enough to venture out into the ocean because there is always somewhere to hide from a pursuing predator. The fallen leaves also provide food for the fishes.
AS mangrove roots catch silt and soil from the land, these trees help to keep Cayman’s famous and beautiful, blue seawater crystal-clear. This process aids our local economy, keeping our many international visitors coming back year after year to snorkel, dive, and enjoy Cayman’s beautiful beaches.
Mangroves help to keep the coats of the Cayman Islands full of a colorful array of marine life by keeping our reefs clean and clear; and they help the turtle population too by keeping the vital seagrass beds which Green turtles feed on clear of silt and runoff!
Mangroves absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gasses thought to be responsible for global warming, during the process of photosynthesis. As the leaves fall off and decay, this carbon is stored in the soil-forming what is known as a ‘carbon sink.’
Mangroves develop long thin structures called propagules. When they are ready, these propagules drop into the water and float while ocean currents wash them to new shores. The floating propagules absorb water and turn down vertically, eventually putting down new roots into the seabed. Slowly, a new mangrove tree will begin to grow. All these growth stages can be seen at Cayman Turtle Centre’s Shoreline Nursery.