Few images feel more iconic to coastal Florida shorelines than the twisted, tumbling limbs of the mangrove. Beneath their clumping root systems, life thrives, providing physical protection for marine species that gather under, seek refuge and sustenance within, and cling to mangroves’ protruding appendages. Above the water, dense canopies provide shelter and important nesting habitat for coastal birds and mammals.

The aerial root structures of mangroves have been credited with helping to reduce waves and absorb storm surge. A common sight along much of Florida’s coast, mangroves can be likened to anchors that help to stabilize coastline ecosystems and serve as a first line of defense against coastal flooding and erosion — a critical attribute that becomes more at risk as sea-level rise and saltwater encroachment outpace restoration efforts.

The magic of the mangroves doesn’t end at their immediate importance to marine life habitat and coastline protection. Mangrove forests are also capable of absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, sequestering that carbon in their biomass at a rate that is five times more efficient than tropical forests. Scientific cost estimation has suggested that this carbon sequestration is worth between $2 billion and $3.4 billion in the United States — a price tag that further underscores the importance of reestablishing the reliable flow of clean freshwater from Lake Okeechobee to the southern Everglades.

Beautiful and essential. If you can, take a moment to learn more about these incredible trees by visiting a section of our website dedicated to The Everglades Handbook, reprinted with permission from author Tom Lodge. Next time you’re taking in the view like the one pictured above, remember to give thanks for the mangroves and their many contributions to clean water and a sustaining lifestyle in Florida.

To see more mangrove images from Friends of the Everglades Multimedia Producer Leah Voss, click the button below.