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Ecosystem: Mangroves in the Ecosystem

Introduction

Ecosystems are active interactions that occur among the fauna and flora together with the environment as they function as a unit. Ecosystems have no limit in their sizes for they can be as big and as small as possible as long as the stakeholders in it continue to work as a unit and the balance between them is not disrupted. An ecosystem may be differentiated from a biome based on the size whereby a biome is composed of various ecosystems taken together (Swift, et al 1).

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Ecosystems are differentiated from other systems because of their integrated functioning and their ability to maintain their functioning through the union of varied organisms that are within the environment. Indeed, it is a complicated form of relationship which is found among the interacting members of the environment (Swift, et al 1).

There is a cycle of interdependence in an ecosystem in which a balance must exist for the survival of the ecosystem. In an ecosystem, there is a continuous flow of energy from the producers to the consumers (De Lacerda 125). This paper will discuss the ecosystem about the mangrove.

The mangrove ecosystem

Mangroves are highly adaptive plants that are found growing in areas that are often drenched with water and the soils are saline. They are a collection of distinct plants which include ferns, shrubs, trees, vines and palms. These trees and shrubs are mostly found in the tropical climates as thick forests. Mangroves in the ecosystem act as the primary producers and this makes them the core members of this ecosystem; they hold the soil together preventing erosion by the tides thereby creating a means of existence for a variety of other organisms (Hogarth 1).

The waterlogged areas that the mangroves survive in can be taken to mean either a shoreline or a riverbank where there are changes in the water levels and significant changes to the levels of salinity especially when the areas experience high rates of evaporation. This may at times make these areas more saline than the main water bodies (The Mangrove Ecosystem 1).

The adaptations of the mangroves require them to be able to survive long periods of high tropical temperatures, exposure to the forces of the tides which include being submerged in the water or exposed as the waters recede, changes in the salt levels in the swamps and the changes in the amount of oxygen in these habitats (Hogarth 2). Mangroves can either be exclusive or true, meaning that they are only found in the mangrove ecologies and cannot survive in other types of ecologies or they can be non-exclusive meaning that their survival capabilities are not limited only to the mangal environments but can exist in drier conditions. These kinds of mangroves are also referred to as the mangrove associates (Hogarth 2; The Mangrove Ecosystem 1)

There is an assortment of plants that grow on the mangrove because they cannot survive in the salty environment. Mangroves kind of relationship did not develop from a common ancestor but came to be as a result of union of independent families. Moreover, the mangrove ecosystem is also known as the mangal community (Hogarth 2).

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The physical environment in a mangrove ecosystem

Mangroves have been known to occupy areas that have warm temperatures because; despite their adaptive capabilities they cannot survive in the cold frosted areas. They have a large affinity for the low-lying areas with waves with high amplitude to be able to slow down the waves and allow for sedimentation. Waves that are too strong tend to carry sediments back as they ebb away, erode the soils and also pose a physical threat to the mangrove ecosystem, hence the mangal ecology does best in the sheltered areas. Indeed, the shelters act to protect the mangals from both the wind and tidal waves (Kathiresan 101).

The physical environment of a mangrove also includes the water. This is a main essential in a mangrove for it is through water that these habitats are flooded. Moreover, mangroves grow in the areas where there is continued flow of water since stagnant water leads to poor growth of the mangroves.

Soils are also part of the physical environment of a mangal. This is where the plants attach themselves especially on the coastlines or the river banks. Alluvial soils act as good substrates for the mangroves especially when these soils are muddy or silt. Soils with a high composition of humus and/or sulfides are also good for the mangroves. However, a poorly drained soil leads to stagnation of the water hence is not good for the growth of the mangroves (Kathiresan 102).

Mangroves can also be found in other forms of substrates which may include peat, a collection of the dead and decayed vegetation. This usually occurs in the coastal reefs and also the oceanic islands. Physical environment also includes the organic materials found within the ecosystem. These are the parts of the once alive constituent of the ecosystem which may include the dead organisms, flora and fauna wastes and plant parts.

The producers

Producers or autotrophs can be said to be the source of food to the other organisms in an ecosystem but those which can be said not to eat from other producers. In an ecosystem, the green plants are the producers mainly because they make their food but act as a source of food to the other organisms in the ecosystem through the use of inorganic compounds (Robertson and Alongi 295)

Even though the mangrove populations are limited by the harsh living conditions associated with the mangal ecosystem, mangroves are classified among the accomplished large-scale producers that have a high diversity. The main producers in a mangrove ecosystem are the plants. Through the use of the leaves, the plants capture light which later turns to food through the processes of photosynthesis.

These plants act as the source of food for the herbivores within the ecosystem. Here, they act as the primary producers and this is also seen when the plant leaves after falling are consumed by the living organisms in the waters which include the fish and/or other bigger organisms found in the water.

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However, due to the small variety of the direct primary consumers in the mangals, there have been increased organisms that feed on the decomposed foodstuffs which originate from the plants (Robertson and Alongi 295). During the process of decay, the plant’s nutrients that dilute in water leach out to the ground to be consumed by bacteria and the remaining decomposed materials act as a source of food to the small organisms. The grapsid crab mainly eats the mangrove propagules hence it can be termed as a primary consumer (Worrall 3). These foodstuffs from the plants may include the leaves, branches, barks, stems, roots, and fruits. When these fall off the trees, they are subjected to the process of decomposition to form detritus which is consumed by these organisms

The consumers

These are also known as the heterotrophs and are components of an ecosystem that cannot produce their foods hence have to look for the ready-made foodstuff for consumption from the environment in which they live. Heterotrophs get their food from other plants and /or animals which provide the essential nutrients needed for their survival. They include the herbivores which feed exclusively on plants; a crab called grapsid crab that feeds on the propagules is an example (Worrall 3).

Others are the carnivores (predators or scavengers) which eat the meat of the prey they killed themselves or of the leftovers from prey killed by others. These may include the hawks, eagles, crocodiles, or fish. Omnivores are both carnivorous and herbivores in that they eat both the meat and plant products. These include men who may get fish and edible plants from a mangal; some monkeys are also omnivores (Dusheck Para 11). Consumers also include the saprobes which include the bacteria and fungi and they feed on the remains of the plants or animals by digesting their remains.

Community interactions

The mangrove ecosystem and the surrounding communities affect each other in many different ways which could be positive or negative. The mangal has many benefits to the surrounding communities and the world at large, the main benefit being the provision of food to people. The mangroves are the breeding areas for the fish for they exist in the sheltered warm areas. The water movement around the mangal is slowed down hence there is a safe place for breeding (The Mangrove Ecosystem 14).

The sediments deposited in the mangroves act as a source of food for the aquatic life. The mangrove ecosystem also offers a good supply of the foodstuff through detritus and the living organisms, thus increasing the fish supply to the neighboring communities (Kathiresan 2003).

The mangroves act to protect the coastline from the sea. It acts as a barrier between the two by slowing the water action and also catching the sediments as the waves ebb away. These barriers can reduce the effects of the storms as they approach the land for they reduce their power. They, therefore, act as the guardian of the people from natural catastrophes (The Mangrove Ecosystem 14; Worrall 2).

The mangals have a wide range of animals and plants life, more than any other place because of their distinctness or the variation of the species. These flora and fauna have adapted themselves to conditions that would otherwise be impossible to survive in, hence the mangals are a very rich educational resource.

The mangroves are used by man for their unique and wide variety of trees as a source of timber and medicine. Local inhabitants of the northern territory in Australia are aborigines who harvest and use the mangroves for their timber and medicinal value. They also treat it as a source of food where they get the marine species they regard as food although other plants are growing within the mangroves that are edible (Spaninks, et al 14).

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They also act as a source of enjoyment to the local communities together with the foreign tourists who visit there to view the unique resources. These include the bird watchers, recreational fishers and hunters. Mangroves, where they are found, are associated with the communities’ ways of life in that the people link them with their cultures. This is because of the different roles they play to direct human actions (The Mangrove Ecosystem 12).

Mangroves tend to purify the air as they break down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for their survival. Man on the other hand has affected the balance of this ecosystem through the processes of looking for food, entertainment, pollution of the environment, deforestation of the mangrove forests and even large-scale fishing (Spaninks, et al 14).

Conclusion

Ecosystem is the relationship between a unit of organisms that live together through mutual understanding and sharing of energy. This is the ecology of the system of relationships between different organisms showing the cycle they use for sourcing food and the chains they use from the producer down to the consumer. Moreover, ecosystems are differentiated from other systems because of the integrated way in which they operate. Generally, mangals are highly adaptive plants that are found living in areas that are often waterlogged and the soils are saline. Since the mangals are mainly found in the tropics, there are increased rates of evaporations and these may lead to increased saline levels. Moreover, the adaptive capabilities of the mangals have led to the creation of a distinct ecosystem especially when the plants found in the system are exclusive. This means that an ecology composing of rare species is formed.

Since the ecosystem of the mangrove exists in the general environment, it has effects on some aspects of the environment that result from the way they are exploited, thus affecting the environment either positively or negatively.

Works Cited

De Lacerda, Luiz Drude, Mangrove ecosystems: function and management Environmental science Special research project on environmental science Environmental Science and Engineering. Brazil: Springer. 2002. Web.

Dusheck, Jennie. “Ecosystem.” Biology Reference. 2010. Web.

Hogarth, Peter J. The biology of mangroves and sea grasses Biology of habitats UK: Oxford University Press. 1997. Web.

Kathiresan, K. Ecology and Environment of Mangrove Ecosystems, Centre of Advanced Study in Marine Biology Annamalai University. N.d. Web.

Kathiresan K. How do mangrove forests induce sedimentation? International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation. 2003. Web.

Robertson, Alistar I. and Alongi, Daniel M. Tropical mangrove ecosystems Volume 41 of Coastal and estuarine studies. New York: American Geophysical Union. 1992. Web.

Spaninks, Frank et al. Economic valuation of mangrove ecosystems: potential and limitations Issue 14 of CREED working paper series. IIED. 1997. Web.

Swift, Michael John et al, Decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems, Volume 1979, Part 2Volume 5 of Studies in ecology Volume 5 of Oakland Project Series UK: University of California Press. 1979. Web.

“The Mangrove Ecosystem.” Mangrove Management in the Northern Territory: N.d. 2010. Web.

Worrall, Sarah. The effects of grapsid crabs on mangrove forest restoration, Minnesota: university of Minnesota, St Paul. N.d. 2010. Web.

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