In Australia, mangrove habitats are significantly represented in nature reserves, sanctuaries, national parks and biosphere reserves where they have significant recreation and ecotourism values.
Mangroves trap sediments and so contribute to land building, preventing erosion and excessive shifting of coastlines. They also provide habitat for many commercially collected species such as fish and crabs.
Australian coastal Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and people of South East Asia have had a very close association with mangroves. Mangroves have long functioned as a storehouse of materials providing food, medicines, shelter and tools.
Mangrove communities provide food directly and indirectly e.g. fish, crabs, shellfish, prawns and edible snakes and worms. The fruit of certain species, including the nypa palm, can be eaten after preparation along with the nectar of some of the flowers. The best honey is considered to be that produced from mangroves, particularly the river mangrove (Aegiceras corniculatum).
Medicines are derived from mangroves. Ashes or bark infusions of certain species were applied to skin disorders and sores, including leprosy. Headaches, rheumatism, snakebites, boils, ulcers, diarrhoea, haemorrhages and many more conditions are traditionally treated with mangrove plants. The latex from the leaf of the blind-your-eye mangrove (Excoecaria agallocha) can cause blindness, but the powerful chemicals in it can be used on sores and to treat marine stings. The leaves are also used for fishing—crushing the leaves and dropping them in water stupefies fish which float to the surface.
Certain tree species, notably the cedar mangrove, cannonball mangrove (relatives of the red cedar) and the grey mangrove, are prized for their hard wood and used for boat building and cabinet timber as well as for tools such as digging sticks, spears and boomerangs. The fronds of the nypa palm are used for thatching and basket weaving. Various barks are used for tanning, pneumatophores (peg roots) make good fishing floats. The wood from yellow mangroves (Ceriops) has a reputation for burning even when wet.
Last updated: 22 March 2013
This page should be cited as:
Mangrove uses, WetlandInfo, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland, viewed 14 December 2018, .