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Mangroves In The Australian Ecosystem Essay

2092 words - 9 pages

Mangroves in Australia

Introduction

Mangroves are an integral part of the Australian ecosystem. They are valuable ecologically, economically and socially. Mangroves provide nurseries to an abundance of marine species which would die if the ecosystem was knocked out of balance. They also account for about 75% of commercially caught fish in Australia. Unfortunately mangroves are under constant threat from humans. Since European settlement in Australia, around 17% of Australia's mangroves have been destroyed. Three large threats to mangroves are coastal development, chemical runoff and climate change. These factors are all caused by humans, and can be easily stopped without much hassle.

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They are important in Aboriginal traditions and tourism. The Aboriginal people of Australia have used mangroves to find food and medicine. The fruit of the Avicennia marina mangrove provides an abundance of medicinal and agricultural benefits. The Aboriginal people have been able to extract these benefits without causing direct damage to the mangrove ecosystem. Mangroves also play a large role in tourism. They provide a place for tourists to go bird watching and partake in many other recreational activities.

Human Impacts on Mangroves

Humans have played a large role in the destruction of mangroves. Pollutants, such as oil, fertilizers and toxic chemicals, have affected the growth of mangroves. These pollutants are all forms of waste produced by humans. Oil spills release large amounts of oil into the mangrove ecosystem. This oil can smother the roots of mangrove trees, which kills the mangroves. Deforestation is caused when many mangrove systems are cut down in order to develop infrastructure on the mangrove site. When fertilizers and other nutrient filled products are not disposed of properly, the result is eutrophication. Mangroves act as nurseries to fish and other marine animals. Currently too many sea creatures are being fished, leading to the destruction of the mangrove ecosystem.

Deforestation

Many people see mangroves as nothing more than smelly, useless, trees, taking up valuable building space. Lack of knowledge about the values of mangroves leads to them being cut down, in order to build human settlements. So far, about 35% of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed. Most of the mangroves have been destroyed in order to build over the mangrove site. Coastal development destroys large mangrove colonies, and pollutes the few mangrove systems remaining.
Eutrophication
Fertilizer runoff from the mainland is a large detriment for the mangrove ecosystem. The increased amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus from the fertilizer causes eutrophication, which results in algae blooms to flourish. The abundance of algae leads to a depletion of oxygen in the water supply, suffocating other marine life that live in mangrove forests.

Chemical Runoff

Toxic chemicals are a pollutant that negatively influences the growth of mangroves. When toxic chemicals are dumped or washed into the ocean, they are absorbed by organisms at the bottom of the food chain, such as plankton. The chemicals accumulate in the bodies of these organisms, as they are unable to break down the chemicals. Animals higher on the food chain then eat the smaller organisms, and subsequently absorb the chemical runoff, which raises the concentration even further. Eventually, animals on the top of the food chain are affected by the chemicals. When these animals die, the chemicals are released into the mangrove ecosystem. The mangroves then absorb the chemicals, causing them to die.

Overfishing
One of the biggest threats to mangrove ecosystems is overfishing. Many sea creatures...

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