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Mapping Mangroves

Mangroves are among the most biologically important ecosystems on the planet, and a common feature of tropical and sub-tropical coastlines. But ground-based evidence suggests these vital coastal forests have been strained in many regions because of harvesting for food, fuel, and medicine. Now, scientists have used satellite images to compile the most comprehensive map of mangroves worldwide, which should help in future efforts in monitoring and conservation.

Mangrove forests are typically made up of trees, shrubs, and palms that have adapted to the harsh conditions of high salinity, warm air and water temperatures, extreme tides, muddy, sediment-laden waters, and oxygen-depleted soils. They are fertile nurseries for many marine species, and also serve as a first line of defense against hurricanes and tsunamis by dissipating wave and wind energy.

These maps show the location and relative density of mangroves, which cover roughly 137,760 square kilometers (53,190 square miles) of Earth’s surface. The forests can be found in 118 different countries and territories, though nearly 75 percent of their area occurs in just 15 countries.

They are most often found straddling the equator between 25º North and South latitude. About 42 percent of the world’s mangroves are found in Asia, with 21 percent in Africa, 15 percent in North and Central America, 12 percent in Australia and the islands of Oceania, and 11 percent in South America.

Source: Mapping Mangroves by Satellite - Earth Observatory

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