iSimangaliso celebrates first World Mangrove Day
The universal importance of iSimangaliso as a protected area is once again highlighted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) declaration of July 26 2016, as the first “International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem”. The World Heritage Site provides ideal habitat for mangrove ecosystems in South Africa, from its Kosi Bay/Mozambique border to the southernmost region of the Lake St Lucia Estuary, with six species recorded.
Says iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis, “There are a thousand reasons reinforcing the wisdom of conserving iSimangaliso as a World Heritage Site, and UNESCO has just identified one more of these. With half of the world’s mangroves already lost, iSimangaliso has more mangrove types than anywhere else in the country and has the southernmost distribution of three of these. Mangroves are iconic and intimately associated with a diversity of fauna as well as cultural traditions that add to the uniqueness of this place of miracles.”
Mangroves are usually found in tropical climates, within the littoral zone and specifically in sheltered shores. The mangrove environment is a finely-balanced living community. UNESCO reports that over half of the world’s mangrove forests have been lost in the last century, many of them to aquaculture, agriculture, and development. The dozens of diverse mangrove species, which live in tropical and subtropical tidal flats around the world, have in common a tolerance for salt water. Mangrove trees are halophytes – salt-resistant plants with special adaptive mechanisms for coping with conditions of high salinity. The mangrove swamp is a dynamic community, continuously adapting to varying conditions. The forests provide important habitat for a diverse array of marine species and protect coasts from storms.
Animals and Mangroves
Many animals are considered permanent residents of the mangrove ecosystem while others are seen as opportunistic visitors, or dependent on estuaries to complete their life cycles. These include invertebrates, zooplankton, crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals – all connected in some way to this remarkable ecosystem. Within iSimangaliso, animals commonly associated with the habitat include hippo (with over 800 hippo occurring in the Park) and Nile crocodiles (upwards of 1200 adults). Fish eagles, kingfishers, herons, cormorants, storks and numerous other birds are commonly seen amongst the Park’s mangroves. One of the most characteristic residents of a mangrove swamp is the fiddler crab, noticeable by one huge vibrantly coloured claw. Of the 94 known species worldwide, five occur in South African estuaries where the mudflats are pockmarked by their burrows.
Natural resource use
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