Scientists: Keep Mangrove Forests to Prevent Flooding, Soil Loss

03 April 2020

Disappearing natural resources like mangrove forests are important to reduce flooding in low-lying coastal areas like southern Florida, scientists say.

Mangrove trees grow in coastal wetlands. Unlike other trees, they can grow in salty seawater. Their roots form a dense barrier that helps prevent erosion and controls the force of incoming water from tides and ocean storms.

Scientific studies do not agree on how high tides and rising seas linked to climate change will affect Florida. However, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, or NOAA, predicts that the sea level could rise by as much as two meters by the year 2100. If that happens, large areas of Florida would be underwater.

n this March 2005 photo provided by Brian Skoloff, the tip of a kayak is seen paddling into a mangrove-lined canal on Raccoon Key, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)
n this March 2005 photo provided by Brian Skoloff, the tip of a kayak is seen paddling into a mangrove-lined canal on Raccoon Key, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)

Environmental scientist Margarita Kruyff is trying to develop ways to limit the damage from flooding and rising seas. She said, "We're trying to project how fast we're expecting them to rise so we can plan how we're going to protect our communities for the future."

Mangroves a valuable resource

Laura Geselbracht is a marine scientist in Florida. She works for the environmental group Nature Conservancy. She says mangrove forests like the ones in Oleta River State Park near Miami Beach provide protection against flooding. "Even though this area is surrounded by a lot of high development, the mangroves will help reduce flooding," she said.

But Florida's mangrove forests face threats from building and other kinds of projects. "Most of our mangroves have been eliminated for development. As sea level rises, some areas will no longer be habitable and maybe some homes and other structures will be removed," Geselbracht said.

Environmental scientist Margarita Kruyff warns of flooding in coastal areas in places like Miami Beach. That is because, she says, there is porous rock underground that leaks water.

"On the roads it means water could be coming up our drainage systems," Kruyff said.

Another influence on water levels in low-lying coastal communities is the seasonal King Tides. These are very high tides that affect ground water levels.

"Water may be coming up over seawalls for our residents, causing flooding in their homes and backyards," she said.

Flooding linked to rising seas is being reported in many parts of the world. In southern Florida, high tides are threatening drinking water and causing soil erosion.

Mangrove forests on the coast are natural resources that can help prevent both erosion and floods. "We recognize that bringing back mangroves is going to help us be better protected in the future," she said.

Kruyff has advice for people in coastal areas around the world where mangrove forests live:

"In areas that are underdeveloped, see how you can preserve nature, rather than trying to bring it in once you've developed these areas."

I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.

Deborah Block reported this story for VOA. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

erosion –n. the loss of soil to the action of the wind and water

tide –n. the regular rise and fall of the level of the ocean caused by the pull of the Sun and Moon

eliminated –adj. removed

habitable –adj. able to be lived in, a place where people can live

porous –n. having small holes or areas where air and water can pass