The Trees

The mangrove trees are the habitat itself, with their extensive root systems they slow water flow, making particulate matter settle, creating the muddy habitat, and the large surface area of the roots provide shelter and habitats for countless organisms.

Zonation of Mangrove Trees

This is a difficult subject in the study of mangals, many different factors are thought to interact to produce the observed distribution of species in a mangrove forest. Different scientists have tried to explain it in different ways. For a more detailed account of the different explanations and reasons for the zonation observed in mangals, go to my Mangrove Zonation page.

Mangrove tree roots

The soft sediment which many mangrove forests grow in is frequently very anaerobic (lacking in oxygen). To cope with this, the root systems of most mangroves have adapted, with the formation of aerial roots that rise above the surface of the mud. The shapes of these roots vary enormously, but the three most conspicuous types are ‘peg’ or ‘pencil’ roots (found in the Avicennia species), ‘knee’ roots (Bruguiera species) and ‘stilt’ roots (Rhizophora species).

The root systems of mangrove trees are very shallow, extending less than two metres below the surface. Horizontally, however, they spread in a dense mass over large distances. Many mangrove species are very unusual in that the proportion of plant material below the surface is much greater than that above, another feature that probably helps them to remain anchored in soft sediments.

Some genera, such as Aegialitis, Aegiceras, Exoecaria, Kandelia, Osbornia, Scyphiphora and Nypa do not have aerial roots. Kandelia may develop pneumatophores under some conditions. Some species have other adaptations to aerate the root system, such as the spongy, enlarged stem base in Aegialitus.

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