Mangroves also provide raw materials for the production of wood, leather, and medicinal products which local communities living next to the forests benefit from using and exporting. In developing nations such as Indonesia, the fruits, shoots, and seeds of mangrove trees continue to be a source of food. On a larger scale, mangroves support fisheries by serving as nurseries for juvenile fish and are therefore of commercial value. Juveniles of John’s snapper (Lutjanus johnii) live in the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve in Perak, Malaysia for roughly one year before moving out to the Malacca Strait where mature individuals are considered commercially valuable.
Man’s relationship with mangroves has spanned centuries, if not millennia. From the time of ancient civilisations which set up home along coasts and on river deltas, mangroves have provided us with a plethora of resources as well as with physical protection from the forces of the ocean—just as they do today. However, the thirst for development especially in developing countries in Asia has threatened even the most biodiverse of mangroves like never before. Localised deforestation has already removed large tracts of mangroves while the spectre of global climate change paints a bleak future for the prospect of their growth. Their loss will impact not only local communities and industries which extract resources from them, but also the global ecosystems which indirectly depend on them to support avian migration and to store carbon. Mangroves may have adapted over thousands of years to become a resilient bunch, but in view of human action over mere decades which stands to test their mettle like never before, much more needs to be done to protect these forests by the sea.