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Storms and Trees and Shrimp
Teacher Contributed

Storms and Trees and Shrimp

Their aerial roots and dense growth are both characteristics of mangrove trees which help stabilize coastlines. Shown here is are Red Mangroves (Rhizophora mangle).

Do I Have To Choose?

Coastal Mangrove Forests are considered biological treasures by people who know them. Unfortunately, the people who know them seem to be mainly people who live around them, and even people who live around them can take them for granted. People lead busy lives and can overlook things they see every day, even some things that can help protect them in a changing climate.

So mangrove forests save lives. No problem. Just replant them, restore them, and bring them back! Well, that would be great as far as providing natural breakwaters, but the decline in mangroves did not result just from malice. There was a purpose behind it and one of those purposes was shrimp farming, an effective way to bring food and income to some areas. So do people have to choose between economic livelihood and safety? Not necessarily.

A shrimp farm in Chumporn Province, Thailand.

So Thailand is an interesting situation, but if you've thought about this much, you may realize that this issue goes beyond Thailand or even Asia.

Head Scratchers

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. What evidence showed conclusively than mangrove forests can save lives? Was it found that the forests needed to be extensive to have a positive effect? Was it found that denser forests provided more protection? Does this situation surprise you? Why or why not?
  2. What are some of the potential economic benefits of coastal mangrove forests? What are the two main pathways through which these benefits are realized? Are these pathways opposed to each other? Why or why not?
  3. How are the people of Thailand responding to the loss of their mangrove forests? Do you think this is an appropriate response? Why or why not?
  4. Why is the example of shrimp farms and mangroves especially important given what is starting happen around the world with shrimp farms?
  5. Are you surprised by the role mangrove forests play in climate change? Why or why not? Does this affect the way you view mangroves and shrimps? Explain your thinking fully.

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