During a hurricane, tropical mangrove forests can help buffer inland areas from wind and reduce erosion.
In the process, these forests themselves may suffer a lot of damage. Strong winds can rip leaves from branches and topple whole trees.
Ken Krauss of the United States Geological Survey says that how fast mangrove forests recover after a storm depends on how healthy they were beforehand.
“If they’re healthy before the storm hit, they regenerate fairly quickly,” he says.
But he says many of the world’s mangrove forests are not healthy.
For example, coastal development and shrimp farms often change how water flows in and out of these ecosystems.
That interferes with how mangrove seeds naturally disperse and makes it harder for trees to regrow after a disaster.
Krauss says there are proven strategies for restoring the natural flow of water through mangrove forests. So he says it’s important to work proactively to repair vulnerable areas.
“The systems may still take a lot of damage during a storm, even after you fix the hydrology, but the recovery is going to be a lot better,” he says.
So they will be ready to protect coastal communities again when the next storm comes.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media