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JEDDAH: As part of the Saudi Green Initiative, launched last year with the aim of combating climate change, reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment, 10 billion mangrove trees will be planted across the Kingdom .

Mangroves, ancient coastal plants that grow partly submerged in salt water and thrive in warmer climates around the world, are considered the cornerstone of coastal environmental development and therefore have a key role to play in achieving the goals initiative.

Ahmed Almansi, coastal and marine environment consultant at the National Center for Vegetation and Desertification Control, told Arab News that mangroves grow along the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coasts.

“This gives impetus to the center to grow more mangroves in these environments,” he added.

According to the center, two types of mangroves commonly grow on the Red Sea coast: Avicennia marina, commonly known as gray or white mangrove, and Rhizophora mucronata, also known as curly root, red or Asian mangrove. They are very sensitive to cold.

“Mangroves grow as sparse patches in the intertidal areas of the Red Sea coast and are lower in northern areas,” the center said. “The reason for these height differences may be the low temperatures to which the bushes are exposed in the northern part of the Red Sea in winter.”

The avicennia marina-like mangroves that grow in the Asir and Jazan regions are the largest found on the Saudi coast, the center said, and “coastal areas and patches of the Red Sea that contain mangroves in the Kingdom cover an area estimated at around 35,500 hectares.

There are a number of reasons why mangroves are considered so important to environmental and conservation efforts. They have the ability to absorb pollutants such as heavy metals and other toxic substances from the water, which helps protect seagrass beds and coral reefs.

IN SHORT

• Trees can protect coastal communities, provide shelter for wildlife, absorb pollution and help fight climate change.

They also act as natural filters for wastewater, preventing land-based pollutants from reaching deep waters. And trees help mitigate the effects of climate change because they can absorb greater amounts of carbon from the atmosphere compared to other tropical trees.

Mangroves also form “green barriers” that serve as the first line of defense for coastal communities, protecting them from storm and wave damage, preventing erosion and helping to stabilize beaches.

“These green barriers absorb at least 70 to 90 percent of the wave energy generated by the winds,” Almansi said. “They are also capable of reducing the intensity of tsunami waves by mitigating the catastrophic amount of wave energy associated with them, which helps reduce loss of life and property damage.”

In addition, mangroves serve as shelters and incubators for many species of fish, crustaceans and birds, providing them with a good source of nutrition. They provide nesting and resting places for many types of resident and migratory birds, whose strong communities are considered a biological indicator of ecosystem quality. The National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification has identified 125 species that use mangrove habitats at some point in their life cycle.

Land animals also benefit from mangroves. They provide pasture for camels on the islands of the Red Sea and provide high quality feed for camels in coastal areas during the winter.

Despite their obvious environmental benefits, mangroves are globally threatened by urbanization, encroachment, overgrazing, pollution, use of fertilizers and pesticides, and improper waste disposal. The development of the tourism industry is another major threat. But efforts are being made in Saudi Arabia to preserve and enhance this precious natural resource.

“The center plants mangroves to rehabilitate these environments, using 60cm long seedlings,” Almansi said, adding that nylon nets are used temporarily to protect young plants, prevent algae and waves from damaging them. and promote strong root growth and stability.