1Frame4Nature | Under the Mangrove Sea

What YOU Can Do: 

  • Start a conversation about the importance of mangroves with your friends and family.
  • Explore, interact with, and share the data at datamares.ucsd.edu.
  • Learn about the amazing animals and communities that mangroves support atmaresmexicanos.com.

–1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now!

The mangroves of La Encrucijada are some of Mexico’s oldest forests, considered the tallest in North America reaching over 40 meters. Photo by Octavio Aburto.

iLCP Senior Fellow Octavio Aburto‘s 1Frame4Nature: Under the Mangrove Sea

The humble mangrove forest is one of the most biologically important ecosystems that border our oceans. They act as the skin of our coastlines, managing the energy exchange between land and sea; and provide vital ecosystem services such as waste treatment, habitat, food resource, and recreation.

A Galapagos sea lion pup plays among the mangrove’s roots. Photo by Octavio Aburto.

I have been on many research expeditions throughout the Gulf of California, Mexico, where I study these ecosystems and photograph them in action: acting as a nursery for yellow snappers, hosting migratory birds after their long flight, and buffering coastlines against storms.

Juvenile American crocodiles are also popularly found among mangroves, where they are well protected from larger predators. Photo by Octavio Aburto.

In 2008, I published a scientific paper evaluating the ecosystem services of mangroves for fisheries, and I found that they can be valued at 37,500 USD per hectare per year—a far cry from the Mexican government’s one-time fee of 1,048 USD per deforested mangrove hectare.

Acting as a nursery, mangroves play an important role in supporting Mexico’s fisheries. Photo by Octavio Aburto.

Due to the lack of communication about mangroves, Mexico and countries around the world are deforesting these habitats at a rapid rate. For example, from 1972 to 1981, 23% of the mangrove forests were eliminated in La Paz, Mexico, alone. At this rate, we will have lost 50% of Mexico’s mangroves in the next 25 years.

Mangroves are also a valuable habitat for migrating birds, who use the forests for shelter and food. Photo by Octavio Aburto.

My study, as well as others about the evaluation of mangrove ecosystem services, has received unanticipated interest and concern by Mexican and international media. Using my images, I have helped communicate these results to illustrate the beauty of mangroves, the species that they support, and the threats that they face.

American flamingos enjoy the well-sheltered and highly productive lagoons. Photo by Octavio Aburto.

Today, mangroves are up against competing industries that appear to provide greater economic incentives. But using the power of a photograph backed by robust science, I was able to prove that when a mangrove lagoon is dredged and transformed, valuable ecological services and the economic potential of a healthy mangrove forest are lost. Although small, I have seen a notable shift in the attitudes of governments towards mangroves and in the communities fighting to protect them. Just in 2015, 113 children halted touristic developments in Cancun to protect mangroves.

Mexico’s mangroves host several species of sea turtles who visit the mangroves for food and refuge. Photo by Octavio Aburto.

So, talk about mangroves with your neighbors, your family, and your friends. It can begin with something as simple as taking a photograph or a video that depicts the great benefits mangroves provide to the people and the planet. Remind them that mangroves are not dumping sites, but essential ecosystems that act like the skin of our coasts, protecting and serving us.


This article is brought to you by the 1Frame4Nature Campaign. Share a picture and story on Instagram with the hashtag #1Frame4Nature, of your personal connection to nature and tell us what action you’ve taken on behalf of our planet.

More stories from 1Frame4Nature