We visited a
mangrove nursery.
Here’s what we learned.

Mikaela Walsh, 4ocean Research Analyst

A surfer and two fishermen teamed up to create generational change for our oceans.

          The 4ocean team went to a mangrove nursery run by a local South Florida business, MANG. Two passionate twin brothers based out of West Palm Beach were originally fishermen who saw the depleting mangrove forests across South Florida and decided to create change. Their mission is to change the world, one mangrove at a time. They have experts in the field that grow and harvest these mangroves before outplanting them to Southeastern coastlines. MANG started a to Buy One, Plant One initiative to restore our ecosystems. Mangrove forests support 70% of the marine life that depends on them. Their nursery currently houses around 25,000 mangrove trees growing, waiting to be mature and robust enough to be added to the natural environment. There are different stages in which these mangrove trees are kept in accordance with the age and structure of the tree. “We’re fishermen, we love our oceans, we wanted to give back in a way, and there's no better plant to give back to along our ocean’s edge than the mangrove that starts it all" -Keith Rossin, Co-Founder of MANG.
        The importance of mangroves goes far beyond just protecting marine life and coastal habitats. Arguably, mangroves are one of the most essential habitats along the coastlines. Sadly, they’re being wiped out across the globe. This coastal forest is the first line of defense against erosion. Mangroves are an essential part of the oceanic ecosystem and home to many species. These habitats act as a nursery and protection for many endangered animals. Mangroves are known as the belt of the earth due to their inhabitants along the Coastal tropic and subtropic waters near the equator. They protect all regions due to the network of their roots below the surface.

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        Mangroves are unique plants with adaptations that most organisms do not contain. They can fully sustain themselves in fresh, brackish, and salt water. These trees have unique roots that can push salt out but still intake water to prevent the tree from dehydrating. Another distinctive feature of these forests is that they have prop roots. These prop roots come from different areas along the tree's stem, making them more stable and reaching their roots farther than the ordinary tree. These prop roots can expand the area where the trees place their roots and allow for an interconnecting network of roots below the surface. These interlocking roots from neighboring trees can even be sustained when a mangrove tree dies to further allow for the structure of the ground. Mangroves have different species with altering adaptations and qualities unique to their primary focus. There are over sixty mangrove species worldwide, but the three main mangrove species native to Florida are red, black, and white.

  • Red mangroves are identified by their prop roots. These prop roots sprout above the ground, giving the appearance of roots above the ocean surface and allowing the mangrove to be more stable in the water. This mangrove species has extra stability, allowing it to sustain the shifty and everchanging soil conditions. These mangroves are commonly seen closest to the coastline and in the water.
  • Black mangroves have pneumatophores, finger-like projections along the mangrove trunk. This mangrove species is usually found in higher elevations inland than red mangroves.
  • White mangroves do not have roots that can be seen above ground, and there is a strong presence of roots below the surface. White mangroves are seen as the highest above ground due to the lack of extra supporting roots in contrast to the red and black mangroves.

       MANG grows all three main mangrove species at the headquarters in West Palm Beach and showed 4ocean the importance of their mission. The MANG nursery harvests these trees in saltwater ponds with their 1,500-gallon saltwater acclimation system. This allows them to bring clean saltwater into this system from the Hillsboro inlet, which gravity feeds into the mangrove troughs so the mangroves can accumulate in the natural salinity of the ocean. The mangrove tree starts as a sprout and goes into a 50-cell tray called the propagal zone. This area hosts mangrove trees anywhere from eight months to a year old until the mangroves start to sprout their roots. Once they hit this stage, they will then get moved to a large farm stage. In the large farm, they are transported from the 50-cell trays to a one-gallon pot to continue growing these trees. One-gallon trees have a very high success rate because they can stabilize in the ground and reach the sunlight for photosynthesis. In the one-gallon planter, prop roots develop around three to four years. Years five to seven is when they begin to really take shape and fully start to develop prop roots extending all across the area.

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4ocean x Mang

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       The MANG team has the success rate and restoration projects down to a science. Depending on the environment of the project dictates the size of the mangrove being planted. “Mangrove restoration isn't a one-size-fits-all application, different projects require different things and different treatments and that's the fun part!” -Keith Rossin, Co-Founder of MANG.
      They plant young mangroves, aged 8 months to 1 year, in limestone. This substrate allows the roots to expand and grow, as it is porous and rigid. For softer, malleable ground with less protection, they plant more significant mangroves with more established roots so the prop roots can expand into the malleable ground, allowing for more plant stability. This allows the tree to have a foundation and structure to succeed in these various environments. They are mainly focused on red mangroves, the front line of defense in the coastal environment, with their prop roots stabilizing in the water. They have an extremely high success rate and have mastered regrowing the depleting mangrove forests essential for marine life and humans.
      Currently, the environment is facing mangrove deforestation, which is causing complications for the ecosystem. Mangrove deforestation event that eliminates mangroves for the primary purpose of coastal development, aquaculture, and farming. Despite the significance that mangroves hold for our environment, the destruction of mangroves still occurs today. Only around 147,000 square kilometers of Mangrove forests still exist globally, and less than seven percent can be sustained in protected areas to avoid further destruction. The estimated rate of mangrove destruction is a 0.04% decrease per year. This decrease demonstrates a more significant loss than coral reefs and tropical rainforests, two of the most threatened marine ecosystems. Around 16-18% of mangrove species have been listed on the IUCN red list of threatened species for possible extinction. Mangroves face many threats, not only habitat destruction but also significant threats, some of which include:

  • Coastal development and aquaculture are creating many issues other than removing mangroves. Some of the issues include pollution, erosion, and rapid salinity changes.
  • Plastic pollution is very abundant in these regions due to the roots and forests being along the coastlines. These non-biodegradable materials will stay in this environment affecting the ability of the ecosystem to thrive.
  • Ocean acidification is wreaking havoc on mangrove forests due to the uptake of carbon dioxide. This causes significant concern because it decreases the amount of nutrients the plant can absorb while allowing it to take in more heavy metals and toxins.
  • Algae blooms occur when an influx of algae is located in a region at one time, causing a change in the water quality and presence of nitrogen in the soil. These algae blooms can cause a thick coating on the leaves and roots causing a decrease in photosynthesis.
  • Chemical pollution and oil spills have been shown to have very toxic effects on these mangroves. This is one of the contributing factors for mangrove reduction in some areas.
  • Drainage from foreign regions, such as local roads, rivers, and streams, can negatively impact the mangroves. This changes the salinity of the water and allows foreign nutrients and contaminants to enter these areas.
  • Sediment covering the leaves of mangrove trees has been shown to have drastic effects on these organisms because they cause a significant decrease in photosynthesis.

A surfer and two fishermen teamed up to create generational change for our oceans.

      Uncovering the detrimental effects of mangrove deforestation also comes along with the decreased presence of aquatic life. One of their first major success stories was during the pandemic which gave hope to the business and locals of Tarpon Lagoon. They began to restore islands across this lagoon by planting mangrove trees and the whole ecosystem in this region began to boom. First, bait fish began to congregate around these islands, thousands of fiddler crabs began to crowd, mangrove crabs followed, and then birds began to congregate which were feeding on these crabs. “If we put more habitat into our local lagoons, we’re going to see ecosystem productivity, ultimately that increases our ecotourism, and makes our lagoon full of life.” -Keith and Kyle Rossin, Founders of MANG.

     This project was a representation of how restoring mangrove forests can completely transform the future of our oceans. With mangrove forest restoration and protection, this won’t just impact our ecosystem for now but will give life to our ocean for many generations to follow. Once the mangrove tree dies, the interconnecting roots stabilize the ground and allow the next trees to come and have a steady foundation for their roots to grow.
     Mangroves play many essential roles in the aquatic ecosystem, but also for people as well. Mangroves act as a massive net of interlocking roots that can maintain dunes and allow for protection against erosion. This incredible barrier allows for protection against natural disasters, especially hurricanes. They are the first line of defense when a hurricane rips through an area. Mangroves are also a nursery for many fish and shellfish, which drives the seafood market and provides jobs for many local fishermen. Mangroves have many benefits and are of utmost importance to the coastal environment consisting of: 

  • Fighting Erosion: Stabilizing the coastline by reducing erosion from natural disasters, storms, and tides.
  • Cleaning Water: Protecting water quality by uptaking nutrients and pollutants before reaching other threatened habitats and wildlife.
  • Fighting Storms: Reducing coastal flooding by collecting water during heavy storms and storm surges.
  • Protecting Wildlife: Providing a home for threatened wildlife and protecting it from predators, including both aquatic and terrestrial.
  • Providing Oxygen: Capturing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses from the air and storing these compounds while performing photosynthesis to create oxygen.

      Mangroves are essential for coastal ecosystems and economies. They are found in many countries to provide natural protection. Mangrove forests are being depleted, causing detrimental effects on local organisms. Luckily, we have great news! We heard about the devastating news of the depletion of mangroves across Florida and decided to help combat the issue. 4ocean teamed up with MANG to end this crisis! MANG is a company devoted to rebuilding mangrove forests that undergo deforestation and other threats. They have an extremely high success rate of planting and maintaining mangrove forests. For every bracelet or shirt sold in the MANG collection, 4ocean will remove five pounds of plastic from the ocean and simultaneously plant one mangrove tree along the coastlines. Let’s combat this issue by restoring the mangroves and protecting our coastlines from the oceanic plastic crisis together!

Mangroves protect us. Now it’s our turn to protect them!


4ocean x Mang

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