are a vibrant part of coastal wetlands on five continents. These trees grow in saltwater with distinctive roots that sprawl above and below water in thick, muddy soils. Not only are they unparalleled for forests at storing carbon, which helps fight the climate crisis, they also sustain life for humans and an array of animals and plants that live in oceans and rivers.
But mangroves face several threats, from pollution to clearing for shrimp farming to palm oil production or other food production. An estimated 54% of mangrove loss in several Southeast Asian countries is due to shrimp farming. WWF is working around the world to restore landscapes where mangroves have been lost and support policies that protect them in the future through partnerships with local communities living near these coastal forests and collaborating with other organizations through groups like the Global Mangrove Alliance.
Here are some of the most diverse coastal forests around the world:
North America The Everglades
Everglades National Park in Florida is home to the largest mangrove forest in the United States. While mangroves are found along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, and throughout much of southern Florida, the national park status of the Everglades allows a unique mix of wildlife—such as Florida panthers, American alligators, manatees, and over 360 different bird species like spoonbills, storks, and egrets—to live with minimal human interference. Without those protections, manatees and mangroves are both at risk. WWF has four recommendations to save Florida wildlife, which are a worthwhile investment because mangroves protect against extreme weather by buffering hurricane-strength winds and waves that could cause massive damage to infrastructure and loss of human life.
Asia The Sundarbans
The Sundarban National Park of India and the Sundarban Forest of Bangladesh cross country borders to make up one of the largest connected mangrove forests in the world. The word “sundarban” refers to the species of mangrove abundant in these wetlands, commonly known as the sunder or sundari (Heritiera fomes) tree. Not only is the forest impressive for its sprawl, but it is also home to an abundance of wildlife including spotted deer, saltwater crocodiles, and endangered Bengal tigers. WWF is working to protect tigers around the world by supporting the restoration of tiger habitat, monitoring tiger populations—including those in the Sundarbans—and ending illegal wildlife trade.
South America The Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands form a bridge between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres off the coast of Ecuador. The archipelago is home to mangroves that must be extremely resilient to survive amid forceful wave action, lava fields, and lack of permanent freshwater streams. The remoteness of the islands and their protected status through an international agreement provides a refuge from human development, leaving the forests close to pristine. This allows the mangroves to provide shelter and nutrition for many animals found nowhere else on earth, like the Galápagos penguin (the only penguin species that lives north of the Equator), the mangrove finch (critically endangered and the rarest bird in the Galápagos), and Galápagos sea lions. However, climate change and plastic pollution pose increasing risks to the Galápagos. WWF is working to find solutions to preserve these iconic islands.
Oceana New Guinea
The island of New Guinea is the second-largest in the world and has extensive and diverse mangrove forests. Like many other wetlands, the mangroves of New Guinea provide valuable resources to local communities. Major examples are fish and shellfish like mud lobster and mangrove crabs that are harvested for food in the muddy streams beneath the 37 species of mangrove trees present on the island. The ecosystems also serve as nurseries for marine animals that move out to coral reefs or the open ocean when they mature. Having a well-protected nursery benefits the support and restoration of coral reefs, which is extremely valuable to coastal communities that build their livelihoods through tourism or fishing on the reefs. Local culture and traditions are also tied to the forests, helping to sustain a sense of community and connection among island residents.
Off the coast of East Africa, Madagascar has an abundance of extraordinary wildlife living among mangroves such as Nile crocodiles, sea turtles, dugongs, over 20 species of lemur, and birds such as the Madagascar fish-eagle. Unfortunately, mangrove deforestation is occurring around the world, including Madagascar, to clear land for development or shrimp aquaculture, and wood for building materials and charcoal. To counter this, WWF supports global mangrove replanting projects and cartographic surveys through the Global Mangrove Alliance to bring back the vibrancy of these ecosystems, helping wildlife, people, and the climate.