Sunday, December 5, 2021

Exploring the Secrets of the Mangroves

The 2020 Marco Speaker Series presented by the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) was held at Mackle Park on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020. It was led by biologist Ryan Young on Florida’s Mangroves and their Importance in the Environment.

Ryan Young knows all about mangroves. He is an avid outdoorsman and founder of Rising Tide Explorers. He is a biologist and Rising Tide is Marco Island’s only 100% biologist owned and operated adventure company. They are also the exclusive eco-tour provider for Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research with kayak tours rentals and boat tours.

Marco Island is surrounded by one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. Young wants to communicate the science of the estuaries and the magic of the mangroves to his clients. 

According to Young, we are so lucky in Marco because of what’s in our backyard. Marco Island is in the middle of the Rookery Bay Preserve and we are surrounded by mangrove forests and estuaries. An estuary is where two chemically different bodies of water are mixed together. Or where saltwater meets freshwater. Within the Rookery Bay Reserve, we have salt marshes, mangroves, oyster reefs and seagrasses. 

Photos by Ryan Young |

What makes Southwest Florida so unique? We share the same climate as much of Southeast Asia, the Amazon, and the jungles of Central Africa. Southwest Florida is called a tropical wet-dry savannah and that is partly due to the extreme wet and dry seasons we have. And this means we have the Red, Black and White mangroves.

Mangroves are found in the brackish salty waters of our estuaries. The Red, Black and White mangroves have developed unique characteristics to be able to survive in these conditions. 

We think of trees growing inland and breathing through their roots, but mangroves grow in the water and all three mangroves have developed adaptations to deal with by growing in the water. 

The Red Mangroves have lenticels or white dots throughout their barks which allows them to breathe above the waterline when the water is high. The Black and White mangroves have pneumatophores—finger-like roots or dead man’s fingers—which act like snorkels to allow them to breathe.

What about the salt? For the Red Mangrove, it separates the salt from the water like a low energy reverse osmosis—it pulls the saltwater in and leaves the salt behind. For the Black and White Mangrove, they take the water in with the salt and get rid of the salt through its leaves; they sweat it out. 

Mangroves have developed a unique ability to reproduce by giving “live birth.” Most trees grow, flower, bear fruit and the seeds disperse. For Mangroves, they grow, flower and have propagules or viable seed sprouts. The seed sprout drops into the soft bottom around the base of the trees or are transported by currents till they find anchor.

We often take mangroves for granted. If mangroves stand in the way of that precious ocean view and people want to cut it down. Trimming of mangroves is permitted only in accordance with the Mangrove Trimming and Protection Act of 1996.

Mangroves are one of Florida’s true natives and a valuable part of the State’s heritage. For more information on biologist guided kayak tours visit:

Please Save the Date: February 5th, 2020, 10 – 11 AM: Ocean Acidification and How It’s Affecting Our Shoreline by Biologist Evan Sherer. 

One response to “Exploring the Secrets of the Mangroves”

  1. Elroy Cady says:

    The real story is about our dying mangroves that are being ignored by the city of Marco Island. The dead, dying and under stress mangroves need our immediate attention. Some of the simple and quick fixes that we can do is to put in additional culverts on San Marco Road between Marco Island and Goodland. The Rookery had a plan to remove the dead mangroves and address the natural flowage that occurred before San Marco Road was built. Shouldn’t we be lobbying the county and state to help us with this incredibly important natural resource that fosters our marine life and protects us against hurricane damage?

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