Mangroves: Rooted for Strength and Breath

Mangrove Roots Et Al


Mangrove forests are unique intertidal habitats that survive harsh, salty conditions and strong waves to provide important ecosystem services to humans and homes. The trees stand in soft mud that men struggle to walk in, yet can withstand storm surges and winds. How do they do it?

Every mangrove tree has its own special type of root that keeps it stable such as the stilt roots of Rhizophora sp. (bakau), the plank roots of Xylocarpus sp. (nyireh) or the knee roots of Brugeira sp. (tumu). These provide extra support to keep the trees upright. They might look like a tangled mess, but they are actually sheer wonders of nature.

Mangroves: Rooted for Strength and Breath
Sonneratia sp. Cone roots

Other mangrove trees have aerial roots (pneumatophores) that stretch outwards from the tree then grow extensions upwards instead of into the ground. They have breathing holes (lenticels) that allow the tree to take in oxygen when it is submerged in flood tides twice a day. Regular trees cannot cope with being waterlogged like this.

Mangroves: Rooted for Strength and Breath
Avicennia roots

Avicennia sp. (api api) have pencil roots that can stretch up to 10m from the tree and Sonneratia sp. (perepat) have cone roots which at times come with almost art-like patterns. These broadly spread-out roots also help the mangrove trees remain stable in the mud.

Mangroves: Rooted for Strength and Breath
Kelab Alami kids in action

Kelab Alami conducts mangrove habitat immersion tours that take you up close and personal with these extraordinary trees and their residents. To find out about special post-Covid family offers, log on to for more information.

Dr Serina Rahman is the co-founder of Kelab Alami and a Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore. She is also a winner of the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA).