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Mangroves are a vital part of coral reef ecosystems. They are typically found along tropical mudflats near estuaries and lagoons and often extend inland along rivers and streams where the water is brackish (a combination of marine and freshwater). Mangroves vary in size from shrubs to trees and are well suited to growing in coastal areas influenced by daily tides. They have special adaptations for their environment including special roots, salt excreting glands in their leaves, and seeds that are able to colonize accreting mud flats. Their roots have extensions called pneumatophores, or breathing roots, that project out of the mud to absorb oxygen. The tangle of roots in mangrove forests traps decaying plant and animal matter and results in nutrient-rich waters and sediments.

This nutrient-rich environment, as well as the relative safety from predators and from the hazards of the open ocean, are primary reasons why they are important nurseries for many fish and invertebrates. Other marine organisms also use the mangroves daily as they come in with the tide to feed. The mangrove ecosystem also provides coastal communities with resources such as wood, fish, and crustaceans, in addition to other ecological benefits such as erosion control from tides and storms.
Mangrove fringed lagoon of Apo Island. Location: Mindoro Occidental, Apo Island, Philippines Photo by: J.W. McManus (from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)
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