UH Moment

UH Moment: Mangroves, Coastal Savior?

The warming climate has spurred the growth of mangroves along the Gulf Coast, overtaking wetlands and marshes.

The warming climate has spurred the growth of mangroves along the Gulf Coast, overtaking wetlands and marshes. University of Houston biology professor Steven Pennings is leading a team of researchers to study the effects of these emerging tropical trees and plants on the shoreline.

“Coastal wetlands provide important services to the people of Texas,” Pennings said.

Funded by a Texas Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation, their research found that mangroves offer an advantage during storms. Areas protected by mangroves suffered less erosion and damage after Hurricane Harvey pushed ashore.

“Mangroves did a better job protecting the coastline,” Pennings said.

Previous research found negative effects of mangroves, including discouraging wading birds. But with mangroves expected to be the dominant source of vegetation along the Gulf Coast within 50 years, Pennings said it’s important to understand their full impact.

“We are interested in maximizing the benefits of coastal habitats for humans and in protecting the wildlife,” Pennings said. “We can change our management strategy to take advantage of the good things that mangroves do and mitigate some of the consequences of mangroves.”

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