Imagine a forest. You probably visualize a lush green jungle. Maybe a park of giant sequoias. Or you may be imagining a pine grove with tall trees against the blue sky.
But there is a type of saltwater flooded forests and mudflats, with strange trees that are home to swarms of mosquitoes that we often despise and that, however, are one of the most fascinating ecosystems on our planet: mangroves.
“Usually, mangroves suffer from a bad image and a bad perception,” Dominican biologist Andrea Thomen, project manager for Grupo Jaragua, a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving island biodiversity, tells BBC Mundo.
“They are considered dirty places and full of mosquitoes. Where you might want to see a beach, you find this type of area that is very little appreciated by people in general. But the reality is that have a greater value than previously believed“.
“They are the perfect buffer against hurricanes and tropical storms,” explains the biologist. And that data is key when we are in the Caribbean country.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), around the 70% of the population of the Dominican Republic is vulnerable to floods and storms, while Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer – an online tool that quantifies the global risk of floods – estimated a flood risk equivalent to $ 262 million dollars in 2020 that will increase to $ 334 million in 2030.
However, the loss of mangrove forests is one of the most critical environmental problems facing the Dominican Republic.
A national campaign that starts this Monday, July 26 (the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem) seeks to provide a solution to the problem.
The initiative, funded by Seacology – a California-based non-profit organization – and managed by local NGO Grupo Jaragua, aims to insult the nation “Be proud of your mangroves“Duane Silverstein, Seacology executive director, tells BBC Mundo.
But why is it so important to save mangroves and why are they in danger?
A natural barrier against climate change
Mangroves are a forest and wetland ecosystem made up of trees and shrubs that grow in brackish and saline water along tropical and subtropical coasts.
Its roots are anchored underwater in underwater sediments and extend above the surface.
Another unique component of this campaign is that it seeks to involve young Dominican athletes to participate in vital environmental actions to save mangroves. in exchange for sports equipment, such as baseballs, bats, or volleyball.
“Actions can range from planting mangroves, to clearing them, to helping scientists record how many species there are,” explains Silverstein.
“But the core of this campaign is not just public education, but the public pride. Because if we don’t do something to save them, they will be history sooner or later ”.
“The irony is that with global warming there are more tropical storms, so we need mangroves more than ever to reduce the damage that we ourselves are causing to the planet.”
“We want Dominicans to feel proud to be leading the way to save this valuable ecosystem.”
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