The Day of the Mangrove

By: Richard Harris,
English Content Editor
mangarooves tree

Qatar’s mangrove forests are one of the ecological wonders of the country – a carbon sink that both protects the land and helps replenish life in the Gulf.

It is also an incredibly rare ecosystem. Worldwide, mangroves form less than 1% of all tropical forests, and less than 4% of global forests, despite being found in 123 countries. Yet some countries have lost potentially 40% of their mangroves in the last 40 years. On 26 July, the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem will be celebrated by the General Conference of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which aims to highlight the importance of the tree and encourage its preservation. The day will also be marked at Qatar National Library, where people are invited to visit us in the Heritage Library reading room where they will find the Arabic-language book Mangroves in Qatar that offers more information about their environmental legacy.

Qatar’s mangrove forests can be found predominantly along the east coast – the most expansive of which is at Al Thakira, just north of Al Khor – and are made up of the Avicenna marina species, also known as the grey mangrove. With specialized aerial roots rising from the mud allowing them to breathe despite the thick, waterlogged sediment in which they grow, the tree is in the 2% of plants on earth that are capable of surviving in salt water, meaning they are classed as a halophyte.

That in itself should make them worthy of protection, but mangrove forests are also of huge benefit to mankind. They store huge amounts of carbon dioxide in their roots, branches and leaves, as well as in the substrate in which they grow. But the converse side of this is that when they are destroyed, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. UNESCO estimates that destroying mangrove forests accounts for up to 10% of emissions from worldwide deforestation, despite mangroves only covering 0.7% of the land. Not only that, but UNESCO suggests that one hectare of mangroves can store 3,754 tons of carbon, the equivalent of removing 2,650 cars from the roads for one year. One study by a researcher called Charles Nyanga, titled The Role of Mangrove Forests in Decarbonizing the Atmosphere, stated that mangrove forests are able to store up to four times more carbon than terrestrial forests.

Alongside their impact on our atmosphere, mangrove forests are also important to ensure that fish stocks remain healthy.

The small, tangled spaces amid their roots are ideal places for fish fry and crustaceans to develop, away from larger predators, thus eventually replenishing fish stocks in deeper waters. Their roots also act as filters, preventing coral reefs in deeper water from being swamped by sediment, and in a country such as Qatar - where natural vegetation is at a minimum - the mangrove forests provide important habitats for insects, birds and mammals, further contributing to biodiversity within the country.

Finally, mangrove forests can help protect the land and mitigate the effects of tsunamis. In the wake of the 2004 tsunami that ravaged Southeast Asia and killed more than 220,000 people, one study conducted by Kyoto University in Japan found that a 100 meters long mangrove forest could reduce the devastation caused by a tsunami by as much as 90%. Other research has been more conservative, but all agree on the mitigating effects of mangrove forests and their ability to dilute the power of the waves and reduce the loss of human life.

Here at the Library we have a range of books and e-resources for people who would like to learn more about the ecology and environmental importance of mangrove forests.

These include:

Halophytes for food security in dry lands / edited by Muhammad Ajmal Khan, Munir Ozturk, Bilquees Gul, Muhammad Zaheer Ahmed.

Mangrove ecosystems : biogeography, genetic diversity and conservation strategies / Gerard Gleason and Thomas R. Victor, editors.

Sensitivity of Mangrove Ecosystem to Changing Climate [electronic resource] / by Abhijit Mitra.

The biology of mangroves and seagrasses / Peter J. Hogarth, Department of Biology, University of York, York, UK.

Mangrove Ecosystems [electronic resource] : Function and Management / edited by Luiz Drude Lacerda.

Tropical mangrove ecosystems [electronic resource] / A.I. Robertson and D.M. Alongi, eds.

The Library is open from Sunday to Thursday, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and on Fridays from 4:00 to 8:00 PM. Free membership is available online at or visit us in the Library.

Add new comment