Meenakshi Jerath
Meenakshi Jerath sampling forest structure in a fringe mangrove forest dominated by the species Rhizophora mangle, Shark River Estuary, Everglades National Park, Florida. Photo credit: Victor H. Rivera-Monroy

The Florida Everglades provide wildlife habitat, fresh water for millions of people and recreation.

Now researchers say they’re also a valuable tool for reducing global warming.

That’s because the Everglades’ mangrove forests suck up a lot of carbon dioxide. These salt-tolerant trees grow where land and sea meet, so when they send carbon into the soil, it gets trapped under water. If this soil remains undisturbed …

Jerath: “… they can be very significant storage systems for carbon.”

Meenakshi Jerath of Florida International University recently calculated that mangroves in Everglades National Park provide up to $3.4 billion worth of carbon storage.

But these valuable forests are at risk. The mangroves are squeezed between rising seas and an ecosystem that’s degraded by man-made flood control systems.

Work is under way to restore a natural flow of water in the Everglades. The effort is slow and expensive but Jerath’s study provides both environmental and economic reasons for it to continue.

Jerath: “It sends a strong signal to policymakers about the importance of funds to keep these Everglades mangroves preserved.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

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