Endangered mangroves are nature’s shield from hurricanes

Profepa released this image of environmental officials shutting down a property where mangroves were destroyed to build a wall.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, exits the Mangrove Biosphere Reserve on Nov. 4, 2014 in Campeche, Mexico. Photo: Getty

Progreso, Yucatán — The destruction of coastal dune thickets and mangroves eases the way for hurricanes to penetrate coastal areas.

But when left standing, they absorb much of the storm’s force, said Fernando Tun Dzul, head of the SIG laboratory of the Natural Resources Unit of the Center for Scientific Research of Yucatán (CICY).

In a presentation apparently timed to coincide with Hurricane Irma’s attack on the Caribbean and Florida, the research technician spoke of the importance of natural resources to cushion the effects of hurricanes, particularly on the coastline. Mangroves and dunes are the first line of defense from damaging winds and surging water.

Tun Dzul also explained that when natural elements are destroyed by human action, such as the growth of hotel infrastructure in the Caribbean, the damage caused is almost irreversible.

Profepa released this image of environmental officials shutting down a property where mangroves were destroyed to build a wall.

A constant battle

The Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection, Profepa, blocked access to a property in Chuburná Puerto one month ago. Mangrove vegetation was removed to build an unauthorized perimeter wall.

To build the concrete wall legally, an environmental impact statement from Semarnat, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat, would have been required.

On the affected land surface of approximately 487 square meters, authorities found specimens of black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) and red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) — all threatened species.

The property owners face fines and up to 10 years in prison, said Profepa.

Sources: Sipse, Profepa press release

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