Below the surface, the tangle of red mangrove roots functions as a protective nursery for scores of juvenile fish species, from Goliath groupers to barracudas, as well as a platform of oysters and other shellfish.
Black mangroves have pneumatophores—“air carrier” in Greek—with an upward-growing root that functions like a snorkel to supply oxygen to the tree in anaerobic soils and at high tide.
Epiphytes such as bromeliads and orchids flourish on the prop and aerial roots of red mangroves. Just a few inches of elevation define the range between red mangroves, which stand in salt or brackish water, and black mangroves, which flourish on slightly higher, drier ground.
A red mangrove in the foreground shows off its prop roots. In the distance, one lone mangrove begins to get established on an oyster bar. Within a decade, the bar will likely be covered by an extensive stand of red mangroves.
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